This new Clingendael Report by Clingendael’s Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Sander Wit and Frans-Paul van der Putten argues that recent developments in relations between Mainland China and Taiwan, as well as expected economic and political benefits for Europe, provide reason for the EU to open talks with Taiwan. Talks with Taiwan should move on a par with EU–China talks — meaning that for now, they should address investment, while talks on a more comprehensive deal could follow later.
Economic and political considerations
By the standards that the EU has set for itself, Taiwan — which is the EU’s seventh largest trade partner in Asia — should be high up on Brussels’ wish list of partners with which to negotiate trade liberalization deals. As a stakeholder in East Asia’s stability prosperity, the EU has reason to see to it that the precarious status quo in cross-Strait relations is maintained. One way of doing so is to contribute to economic prosperity in Taiwan, which is also in the interest of mainland China.
The EU, the Netherlands
As Taiwan’s third largest trade partner — after China and the United States — the EU is clearly a relevant player. While the Netherlands is unlikely to take the lead in this process, the Dutch government is in a position to support initiatives undertaken by the European Commission and/or other EU member states.
About this report
The project of which this study is part was funded by the following government agencies and businesses: the Taipei Representative Office in the Netherlands (TRON), the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RVO, in Dutch), the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taipei (NTIO), the Brabant Development Agency, the City of Eindhoven, Amsterdam Inbusiness (AIB, operated by the cities of Almere, Amsterdam, Haarlemmermeer and Amstelveen), Philips Taiwan and Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO).
Clingendael’s project team and its main sponsors jointly defined the aims of this report, but Clingendael carried out the study independently. The views expressed in this report do not necessarily express those of individual sponsors.
The introduction of this report details key developments in the EU’s trade diplomacy and East Asia policy of recent years. Chapter two explores how Taiwan’s diplomatic space has been evolving in the post-war period. It does so by assessing EU–Taiwan relations — with particular focus on the Netherlands — in the context of developments in the EU’s relations with China and of cross-Strait relations. Chapter three then presents an assessment of Taiwan’s role in East Asian politics and economics, including in trade diplomacy and production networks in the region. Challenged by political limitations, while at the same time extensively participating in production networks in the region, Taiwan seeks to reduce its isolation and strengthen its hub function in the East Asian political–economic system. Chapter four analyses how cross-Strait developments are impacting upon EU–Taiwan relations.
The question of whether the EU has reason to initiate negotiations on an economic accord with Taiwan is assessed from three angles: (1) economic opportunities; (2) political and normative considerations; and (3) the so-called ‘China factor’. Concluding that the EU has reason to engage Taiwan more deeply in the economic field — focusing, for now, on negotiations on an investment agreement — the report ends with policy recommendations for the relevant parties involved.