The establishment of the Taiwan-UK Parliamentary Communication Association is an indication of the strong friendship between the two countries, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday on the inauguration of the group.
“The UK is one of Taiwan’s most important friends in Europe. Not only is it our third largest trading partner in the area, it is also the most popular education destination in Europe for Taiwanese students,” Wang said.
As of last year, Taiwan’s exports to Britain stood at US$3.6 billion while it imported US$1.9 billion in British goods.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrew Hsia (夏立言), a Cambridge graduate, said that when he was a student in the UK back in the 1970s, there were less than 200 Taiwanese students in the country.
“At that time, bilateral relations were very weak. Students had to wait nervously for months before obtaining a visa. Now there are more than 15,000 Taiwanese students studying in the UK at any given time,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Hsin-yuan (賴幸媛) and Taichung Mayor and former foreign minister Jason Hu (胡志強), obtained degrees in Britain.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said the association could support Taiwan’s diplomatic work with the UK by bolstering links between lawmakers.
Taiwan, he said, has much to learn from “one of the first modern governments to employ a multi-party democratic system.”
British Trade and Cultural Office Director Michael Reilly said he hoped the British-Taiwan All Party Parliamentary Group and the new association would spur more efforts in tackling shared challenges such as global warming and infectious diseases.
“Just over two years ago, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in our House of Commons published an extensive report on the UK’s relations with China and Taiwan. In its conclusion, it stressed that the growth in the development of democracy in Taiwan is of great importance and it recommended that the British Government increase its contacts with Taiwan at a political level … particularly to increase the links between its elected representatives and those of the UK,” he said.