Thu, Feb 14, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan’s soft power diplomacy

By Sumit Kumar

At a time when China has taken an extreme position against Taiwan, the EU, one of the largest groupings of countries in the world, has extended its full support of Taiwan.

The bloc said that it “has a strong stake in the security, peace and stability of Asia, including across the Taiwan Strait,” adding: “We support the constructive development of relations between mainland China and Taiwan as part of the peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific region.”

The relationship between Taiwan and the EU has been cordial and warm for years, with both sides having successfully expanded their bilateral engagement in several areas. Economic, trade and commerce cooperation are a major pillar of the transforming relationship between the two.

Although Taiwan does not have diplomatic relations with the EU, it has 21 representative offices in the bloc and official ties with the Holy See.

At the same time, 16 EU members have representatives in Taipei and the European Commission has established the European Economic and Trade Office. Visa exemption for Taiwanese passport holders in 2011 has boosted Taiwan-EU ties, which in turn increased the number of Taiwanese tourists to Europe and intensified people-to-people exchanges.

Taiwan and the EU have a robust economic relationship, with Taiwan having emerged as the 16th-biggest trading partner of the bloc in 2017. The volume of trade between the two sides has reached 50.2 billion euros (US$56.86 billion). While Taiwan has become the EU’s 21st-biggest export destination, Taiwanese exports to the bloc have risen 13.1 percent.

The EU is the largest investor in Taiwan with foreign direct investments of 44.67 billion euros. EU-made products, including vehicles, aircraft and semiconductors, are in high demand in Taiwan.

Auto exports from the EU to Taiwan have increased 19.4 percent, according to Ministry of Finance data.

Germany in 2017 accounted for the largest portion of Taiwan’s trade with the EU (30.7 percent, or 15.4 billion euros), followed by the Netherlands (17.8 percent, or 8.9 billion euros), the UK (11 percent, or 5.5 billion euros), France (9.9 percent, or 4.9 billion euros), Italy (6.8 percent, or 3.4 billion euros), Belgium (4.1 percent, or 2 billion euros) and Spain (3 percent, or 1.5 billion euros). The seven countries account for more than 80 percent of bilateral trade between Taiwan and the EU.

The EU is also a big market for Taiwanese items. For instance, Taiwan is one of the world’s leading suppliers of electronic components, such as computer memorychips and semiconductors, as well as personal computers and optoelectronics, including flat panel displays.

In 2017, office and telecommunication equipment was Taiwan’s most important export commodity, accounting for more than one-third of the EU’s imports from Taiwan (38 percent, or 11.2 billion euros). Taiwan especially stands out as an important supplier of integrated circuits and electronic components, as it provides 18.01 percent of all the EU’s imports in that product group.

The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan is the only foreign nationwide business chamber in Taiwan and the principal organization promoting European business interests in Taiwan, according to its Web site.

The EU and Taiwan have a successful track record of cooperation in research and innovation based on the fact that both face similar societal challenges — aging societies, climate change and energy efficiency — the trade office has said, adding that a targeted opening on 5G for Taiwanese organizations has been included in the ICT Horizon 2020 Work Program.

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