Sun, Jan 22, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Cross-strait issue is part of the job: UK envoy

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The new director of the British Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan Michael Reilly said one of his major jobs here is to pass the message to the leaders of Taiwan and China that the cross-strait dispute should be resolved peacefully.

Reilly took up his post on Dec. 19 last year, succeeding Derek Marsh to become the UK's top envoy in Taiwan. He has served previously in the British embassies in Seoul and Manila, and has spent more than 20 years in Asia.

Speaking in his first meeting with the local press on Wednesday, Reilly emphasized that it is the concern and in the interests of the British government and the EU to see a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait dispute.

"By background and training, I am a diplomat. And the effort of a diplomat is to avoid war. So what I would emphasize is that we don't get into that kind of situation," Reilly said.

He said that Taiwanese information technology (IT) products account for 10 percent of the EU's imports of strategic equipment and the EU therefore has a vested interest in seeing stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Reilly said that two-way trade and investment between Taiwan and the UK has grown considerably over the past 20 years, and Taiwanese IT companies have become household names in the UK.

Reilly said an important part of his job is to "ensure that the broad conditions and playing field remain suitable to allow enterprises to carry out their business and make profits ? and to ensure that governments keep out of their way as far as possible."

Speaking of the weakness in Taiwan-UK relations, Reilly said it was Britain's general "lack of knowledge" about Taiwan, which was partly due to the lack of "branding" of Taiwanese products overseas.

He said a major reason South Korea is well-known in Europe is the quality of its brands -- as people know of Hyundai cars, Samsung mobile phones and LG flat screens.

However, he said, if people buy a Dell computer in the UK, they don't think "`this is a Dell computer made in Taiwan.' They think `It's Dell.'"

"I think the Taiwanese companies are realizing this. We've seen a rapid move toward emphasizing ... branding. ... Acer, Asus and BenQ are beginning to be known in the UK. Ten years from now, people will immediately equate Taiwan with these companies and a reputation for quality. And then people will instinctively want to know about Taiwan," Reilly said.

Speaking of ways to help Taiwan advance its participation internationally, Reilly said the British or European view is to help Taiwan find pragmatic solutions to achieve the outcome and substance of participation.

What matters is ensuring Taiwan can get access to information and that the Taiwanese view is known, he said.

This matters more than the actual level of representation or the actual formal name, Reilly said.

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