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Brussels, 10 March 2003

European Commission establishes European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan

The European Commission has opened an office in Taipei, Taiwan. The move will strengthen relations between the EU and Taiwan in areas such as trade, investment, economic co-operation, research and education. Commenting on the event, Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten said, "The opening of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei confirms the steady development of commercial ties between the European Union and Taiwan. The volume of our bilateral trade and investment flows makes Taiwan an important economic partner for the EU. We look forward to the strengthening of this partnership".

With the Office in Taipei, the European Commission will, for the first time, establish a permanent presence on the island. Mr Brian McDonald has been appointed by the European Commission as Head of Office.

The Office will mainly cover economic and trade relations, economic co-operation as well as cultural and information activities. It will contribute to the strengthening of communications with the Taiwanese authorities and other economic and social partners as well as promoting and boosting opportunities for collaboration in areas of mutual interest. In line with the EU's "One China" policy, the Office will not be engaged in relations of a diplomatic or political nature.

The decision to open the Office in Taiwan forms part of the European Union's new strategy for Asia, the core objective of which is to promote the EU's presence in the region, as Enlargement of the Union makes it an ever more significant global player.

Background: EU-Taiwan relations

The EU, like most other countries, follows a "One China policy" and thus has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It supports the resolution of differences over sovereignty between Taiwan and mainland China by peaceful means, through constructive dialogue. It rejects the use of force as well as the threat of force between the two sides, and insists that any arrangement between Beijing and Taipei can only be achieved on a mutually acceptable basis.

The EU treats Taiwan as a separate economic and commercial entity, and encourages the healthy flow of trade and investment between Europe and Taiwan. This was the basis for Taiwan's accession to WTO as a "separate customs territory" on 1 January 2002, which was strongly supported by the EU.

The EU has solid relations with Taiwan in "non-political" areas, such as economic relations, science, education and culture, and is ready to reinforce these wherever there is a mutual interest. Relations reflect the importance of Taiwan as an economic partner. Taiwan is the EU's third largest trading partner in Asia, after Japan and the People's Republic of China, with a total trade volume in 2001 of over € 37 billion. The Commission holds annual Consultations with Taiwan, alternately in Brussels and Taipei, which cover the entire breadth of the relationship. The last round of Consultations took place in Brussels in June 2002.

The establishment of a local presence in Taiwan has been a Commission priority for some time. This was confirmed in the Commission's Communication of 3 July 2001(1). It also in line with the objective of reinforcing the EU's presence and raising its profile across Asia, reaffirmed in the Commission's Asia Communication of 4 September 2001(2).

(1) HYPERLINK "|0|AGED&lg=EN&display=" IP/01/942 of 03/07/2001 Commission sets out overhaul of its External Service.

(2) HYPERLINK "|0|AGED&lg=EN&display=" IP/01/1238 of 04/09/2001 EU-Asia: European Commission adopts new strategy for enhanced partnership.

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