I am delighted to be here in Taiwan this week to promote trade with the UK. This is not my first visit to Taiwan. I first came here in 1991 with a backpack, and most recently in 2011 with a suitcase, as a guest of the Taiwan authorities.
However, this is my first time here as a minister, and it comes as Britain builds a new future, from a position of strength, from which it continues to be outward-facing, internationally focused and ready to embrace new opportunities.
I was appointed as [British] minister of state in the Department for International Trade on 15 July, three weeks after British voted to leave the EU. Following that historic decision [British] Prime Minister Theresa May set up the Department for International Trade to be responsible for promoting the UK across the world and ensuring we take advantage of the huge opportunities open to us.
The UK is the fifth-largest economy in the world — the second-fastest-growing major economy in the world last year.
We have been and always will be a trading nation and our overseas partners looking to invest in the UK, such as Taiwan, are guaranteed a strong, business-friendly environment. Quite simply, the UK is a great place to do business and that will not change.
A world leader in financial services, insurance, computer and information services and with a global reputation for creativity, it is perhaps unsurprising that the UK is one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business. Supported by super fast broadband coverage, an integrated transport system and low corporation tax, Britain is truly open for business to entrepreneurs who wish to take advantage of the many strengths the UK has to offer.
Throughout my time here in Taiwan I will be delivering a clear message — the UK will continue to thrive and prosper, it will continue to be a reliable ally and trusted partner, its creativity and innovation will not be diminished in any way. And, we will push for the strongest possible economic links with all important partners around the world, including Taiwan.
The UK and Taiwan have long enjoyed a bilateral trading relationship and this is as strong today as it has ever been, with trade volumes growing by 50 percent over the past five years and total bilateral trade in goods and services reaching ￡5.8 billion [US$7.5 billion] in 2014. Taiwan is currently the UK’s sixth-largest trading partner in the Asia-Pacific region and the UK’s 32nd-largest trading partner globally. From a Taiwanese perspective, we were your third-largest trading partner in Europe last year.
Recent years have seen a massive rise in Taiwanese investment into the UK, with the UK attracting ￡1.2 billion of Taiwanese investment last year, making it the No. 1 investment destination for Taiwan’s investment in Europe last year.
Our education institutions are also world renowned — the UK is home to four of the world’s top 10 universities. We offer foreign students a world-class education at globally respected universities resulting in internationally recognized qualifications and great career prospects. Every year, between 4,000 and 5,000 Taiwanese students choose to study in the UK on long-term courses, and even President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is an alumna from the London School of Economics. We deeply value the many benefits that foreign students bring to the UK and we believe that studying in the UK is still the best investment future leaders and entrepreneurs can make.
I want us to continue developing, strengthening and expanding the many links the UK and Taiwan share in areas of prosperity, trade, education and culture, now and in the years ahead.
I feel sure I will be here many more times in the future.
Greg Hands is British minister of state for trade and investment.
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