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Taiwan urges progress on EU investment deal as bloc courts chip firms

TAIPEI: A Taiwanese minister on Thursday (Oct 12) urged the European Union (EU) to make “effective” progress on talks on a long-stalled investment deal, as the bloc courts closer links to major chipmakers based on the tech powerhouse island, notably Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (TSMC).

Taiwan has repeatedly pushed for the conclusion of a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) with the EU, saying it would help encourage more Taiwanese investment, especially from chip companies.

The EU identified Taiwan as a candidate for a BIA in 2015, but no talks have taken place on the issue.

The bloc has been courting Taiwan as a “like-minded” potential partner under the European Chips Act to encourage more semiconductor production in Europe and lessen dependence on Asia, despite the lack of formal ties with the Chinese-claimed island.

China views Taiwan as part of its own territory, meaning Beijing routinely objects to any high-level interactions or agreements by foreign governments with Taipei, making a BIA diplomatically complex.

Speaking at a Taiwan-EU investment forum in Taipei, attended by both Taiwan’s president and the de facto EU ambassador to Taipei, the head of Taiwan’s economic planning agency said it and the EU shared the values of democracy and freedom.

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“This being the case, there are no problems or difficulties that cannot be resolved,” Taiwan National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin said.

“On the basis of this mutual trust … can you tell EU headquarters, on the BIA, can it start, effectively moving it forward?”

President Tsai Ing-wen, addressing the same forum, did not mention the BIA, though she did so at the same event last year.

“My sense is that yes, we do have room for improvement in terms of Taiwanese investment in Europe, but we are working hard on that and just give us a bit more time – we’ll get there eventually,” Tsai said.

A BIA would be politically significant for Taiwan given its diplomatic isolation and general exclusion from most global bodies and agreements, though it is a World Trade Organisation member.

A Taiwanese government official said last month that Taiwan is seeking other trade agreements with the EU given the BIA is a “long shot”.

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, announced in August a €3.5 billion (US$3.72 billion) investment in Germany for the company’s first factory in Europe.

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