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.
At the same time, under the leadership of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Taiwan has taken a calibrated move to elevate its ties with ASEAN. ASEAN accounts for an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese exports and foreign direct investment with New Southbound Policy countries.
In 2017, Taiwanese exports to ASEAN stood at US$58.57 billion, a 14.2 percent increase from the previous year. The number of tourists from ASEAN increased 29 percent in 2017. Of the 2.3 million tourists from policy countries in 2017, 2.14 million come from ASEAN.
There is also a marked increase in the number of students from ASEAN.
To boost bilateral ties with ASEAN members, the Tsai government signed a new investment agreement with the Philippines in December 2017. This development was very significant because agreements between Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries had not been revised since the 1990s.
Given that Taiwan is known for providing world-class medical care at low cost, the Tsai government has rightly decided to engage with Southeast Asian countries and others in this area as well.
This in turn would surely elevate Taiwan’s stature.
While Taiwan has deepened and expanded ties with ASEAN and the EU, Taipei should take concrete steps to form durable ties with South Asian countries, which is a major focus area under the New Southbound Policy.
Sumit Kumar is a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs visiting fellow at National Chengchi University and a research fellow at Maulana Azad Institute of Asian Studies in Kolkata, India.
South China Sea exercises in July by two United States Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers reminds that Taiwan’s history since mid-1950, and as a free nation, is intertwined with that of the aircraft carrier. Eventually Taiwan will host aircraft carriers, either those built under its democratic government or those imposed on its territory by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). By September 1944, a lack of sufficient carrier airpower and land-based airpower persuaded US Army and Navy leaders to forgo an invasion to wrest Taiwan from Japanese control, thereby sparing Taiwanese considerable wartime destruction. But two
As a person raised in a family that revered the teachings of Confucius (孔子) and Mencius (孟子), I believe that both sages would agree with Hong Kong students that people-based politics is the only legitimate way to govern China, including Hong Kong. More than two millennia ago, Confucius insisted that a leader’s first loyalty is to his people — they are water to the leader’s ship. Confucius said that the water could let the ship float only if it sailed in accordance with the will of the water. If the ship sailed against the will of the water, the ship would sink. Two
This year, India and Taiwan can look back on 25 years of so-called unofficial ties. This provides an occasion to ponder over how they can deepen collaboration and strengthen their relations. This reflection must be free from excitement and agitation caused by the ongoing China-US great power jostling as well as China’s aggressive actions against many of its neighbors, including India. It must be based on long-term trends in bilateral engagement. To begin with, India and Taiwan, thus far, have had relations constituted by various activities, but what needs to be thought about now is whether they can transform their ties
The US Navy’s aircraft carrier battle groups are the most dramatic symbol of Washington’s military and geopolitical power. They were critical to winning World War II in the Pacific and have since been deployed in the Indo-Pacific region to communicate resolve against potential adversaries of the US. The presence or absence of the US Seventh Fleet — the configuration of US Navy ships and aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region built around the carriers — generally determines whether war or peace prevails in the region. In the immediate post-war period, Washington’s strategic planners in the administration of then-US president Harry Truman shockingly