INTERVIEW/France's top envoy talks about Taiwan in national day interview

07/14/2021 02:15 PM
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Jean-Francois Casabonne-Masonnave, director of the French Office in Taipei. CNA photo July 14, 2021
Jean-Francois Casabonne-Masonnave, director of the French Office in Taipei. CNA photo July 14, 2021

Taipei, July 14 (CNA) The perception of Taiwan in France keeps improving due to the shared values of the two countries and Taiwan's capable management of COVID-19, according to the top French envoy in Taipei in an interview with CNA on the eve of France's national day.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday, Jean-Francois Casabonne-Masonnave, director of the French Office in Taipei, said he wanted to share the joy of the French people on Bastille Day, which falls on July 14, with all Taiwanese friends.

A national day reception was supposed to take place in Taipei to celebrate the unity of the French people, but it was cancelled due to the current COVID-19 alert in Taiwan, he added.

Nevertheless, Casabonne-Masonnave said he is hopeful that a reception can be held next year and he asked his compatriots in Taiwan to be patient and stay grateful for Taiwan despite the inconvenience of the COVID-19 control measures.

"We should not forget, of course, we are safe and secure here in Taiwan, more than in any other place in the world," he said.

During the interview, Casabonne-Masonnave also said the perception of Taiwan in France is much better than two or three years ago.

That is due to Taiwan's vibrant freedom and democracy, especially in contrast to the erosion of those rights in Hong Kong, as well as Taiwan's effectiveness at managing the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

In addition, Taiwan's progress in advancing human rights, such as the legalization of same-marriage in 2019, has also increased its visibility in France, he said.

"The way democracy is working in Taiwan is the closest to Europe, from my view," he said. "Cooperation in the field of human rights and democracy is something we can do in the region with Taiwan, and we have not so many partners possible."

Jean-Francois Casabonne-Masonnave, director of the French Office in Taipei. CNA photo July 14, 2021
Jean-Francois Casabonne-Masonnave, director of the French Office in Taipei. CNA photo July 14, 2021

Asked about France's presence in the Indo-Pacific region, Casabonne-Masonnave said his country and other major powers have long been in the region to maintain freedom of navigation.

France has undertaken military exercises with regional partners and "what is new is that we have more partners," he said.

On the situation in the Taiwan Strait, Casabonne-Masonnave stressed that "we want peace and stability for everyone."

Asked about the prospect of a trade pact between Taiwan and France, he said public opinion in Europe today is not in favor of discussing free trade agreements (FTAs) as protectionism rises.

He argued that Taiwan and France currently do not need an FTA as French investment in Taiwan has reached US$1.25 billion despite the lack of such a deal.

What the French government wants to work on is attracting more Taiwanese investment and creating opportunities for more economic cooperation, as there is currently less than US$100 million worth of Taiwanese investment in France, he said.

(By Chung Yu-chen and Emerson Lim)

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