Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Fostering economic ties with UK

By Ian Inkster

In this atmosphere, banking on any talks coming to a hard conclusion, or on any such conclusions being put into practice over the next two or three years might be foolhardy.

For such reasons, regional agreements of the sort proposed by the delegation from Changhua, exploring opportunities for cooperation in offshore wind power and in developing renewable energy technologies, might well be a better way forward.

It must also be remembered that succulent fish might be of very different sizes. Whatever Taiwanese and UK ministers might say, all is set against the backdrop of UK-Chinese commercial relations.

These are presently under discussion in that traditional British manner, the select committee, in this case the British House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry on British relations with China.

In my own submission to that inquiry, I have argued that the proposed large projects and restructuring program of the five-year plan will be sustained in China as there is not much alternative.

So, the chances of Beijing planning for much in the way of basic materials importing from Britain are low, British high-tech exports have a better chance combined with what might be called “middle-class” domestic products — from music and furniture and TV shows to the complete array of housing/home goods, styles or fashioned products, automobiles for niche markets that in China might be very large, as well as educational products and services especially associated with English-language usage or training.

So outside of the EU, the UK might benefit from a very open, free-trade relationship with China across high-tech and such middle-class areas, which when accumulated can add up to a very high proportion of the British economy’s exporting capability.

If this sort of view is held by strategic players, then Taiwan might well be pushed further from the limelight of British strategic thinking.

Who among such parliamentary committee discussants in London will forget that diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the UK only ever take place on an unofficial basis precisely because of the British full recognition of China and rejection of all forms of “one China” policy or declaration.

If closer relations with the huge — and still faster-growing — Chinese economy are felt to require commercial distance from Taiwan, then all indicators are that such a distance shall be continued indefinitely.

Under the Brexit conditions just mentioned, and with a confused and diplomatically conservative Tory party in power, no one would forecast change from these relative positions.

Recent history does not give clear guidelines for the immediate future of commercial relations between Britain and Taiwan, although this is perfectly compatible with a more likely cementing of educational, cultural and even diplomatic relations — visa waiver, direct flights and so on are all progressive moves.

However, that type of indicator, which we must all approve, does not spell out change in terms of the billions of dollars of profits involved in international trade, investment and technology agreements.

The historical story has always been uneasy and commercially unsettling. After the retreat of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to Taiwan, Britain was one of the first to break off diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, and it recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Jan. 6, 1950.

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