Taiwan’s foreign minister Friday called on the European Union to strengthen business ties with the democratic island through a bilateral investment agreement.
Joseph Wu made the remarks while calling in to an Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) conference in Rome, meant to be a demonstration on the sidelines of the G20 summit held there.
He said that while the EU invests heavily in Taiwan, not much investment goes the other way
“And therefore we think we need to make a balance, We need to have a mechanism to encourage the Taiwanese businessmen to look at Europe as a potential market for them,” Wu said in response to a question about how to improve relations between the EU and Taipei.
“And I think the best way to do it is through a bilateral investment agreement, or BIA,” he said.
Wu is currently on a tour of Europe that took him to Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He could not be present for the IPAC event in Italy because he was in Brussels for undisclosed reasons.
Wu recounted how in 2015 both sides held discussions of a bilateral investment agreement (BIA), but the EU decided to shelve the agreement because many countries in Europe favored inking a BIA with mainland China first.
“And they [wouldn’t] discuss with Taiwan before their agreement with China is concluded. In a sense, Taiwan [was] being held hostage,” Wu said.
As the European Parliament has decided to table discussion on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), now would be a good time to assess the possibility of an agreement with Taipei, he said.
Talks on a BIA are in their infancy, so the exact form a potential deal would take could resemble a free trade agreement according to some Taiwanese officials, while others like Wu see it more like an investment deal.
Wu also thanked the EU for adopting its first EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation report earlier in October.
The report suggested it would be beneficial for the EU to strengthen ties with Taiwan and encourage the island’s cooperation in the international sphere. It also envisioned the EU as actively promoting stability and peace between Beijing and Taipei.
"The rise of the People's Republic of China as led by the Chinese Communist Party is the defining challenge for the world's democratic space. This warrants us working more closely together," Wu said.
Wu also urged the international community to not allow Beijing to act aggressively to enforce its territorial claims in the South China Sea when asked about increased Chinese militarism there.
“The freedom of navigation operations by certain countries through the South China Sea is a way to reinforce that the area should be free from the Chinese control or excessive maritime claim,” Wu said.
“And I would argue that if we can continue these freedom of navigation operations more often and in higher intensity, I think the countries in that region will notice that the Chinese way of excessive maritime claim is going to be disputed.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry has not revealed Wu’s itinerary in Brussels. An EU spokesperson told the Taipei-based CNA news service that he might have informal meetings “at a non-political level,” but did not comment further.
Taiwan’s diplomatic interactions in Europe during Wu’s tour angered Beijing.
"China firmly opposes official interactions of any form or nature between the Taiwan region and countries having diplomatic ties with China. China’s position on this issue is clear," the Chinese mission to the EU said in a statement.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Eugene Whong.