A Taiwanese trade delegation visiting Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania has touted its dazzling achievements, but sustaining the momentum of mutual interest requires solid plans.
The delegation signed seven memorandums of understanding (MOU) in Slovakia, five in the Czech Republic and six in Lithuania during its trip from Oct. 20 to yesterday, the National Development Council said.
The MOUs aim to promote cooperation in electric vehicle manufacturing, space technology, business digitalization, tourism, science park cooperation, cybersecurity, catalyst technology, green energy, smart machinery, semiconductors, biotechnology, finance and so forth, the council said.
However, it is questionable how many of the MOUs can yield concrete results.
The government reportedly began drafting the delegation’s itinerary about two months ago, after the European countries donated COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, and after Beijing began pressing Lithuania to drop its plan for a Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius.
The delegation’s itinerary was kept separate from that of Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), as his visits to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Brussels at about the same time involved greater political considerations.
Following their trip, the members of the trade delegation should assess whether they understand the needs of the countries they visited and how to foster future cooperation.
For example, Czech and Lithuanian officials have expressed hope that Taiwanese semiconductor suppliers would open production facilities in their countries. While some Taiwanese electronics companies such as Foxconn Technology Group and Delta Electronics have invested in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, countries in the region are obviously anticipating more.
While the government might not be able to intervene in a private company’s investment plans, it should work with host countries to reduce potential barriers and increase incentives for investors to those countries.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) in July said it was considering to open a factory in Germany. While the plan seems not yet finalized, Silicon Saxony, a semiconductor cluster in Dresden, Germany, might be the most practical location. If that is true, TSMC might bring new suppliers to the region, as Saxony is close to Germany’s borders with the Czech Republic and Poland.
While opening a new factory might need more planning, some smaller steps can be taken to facilitate personal interactions and goods transportation.
During his visit to Taiwan as part of Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil’s delegation last year, Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib said that he met with China Airlines chairman Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙), and that Hsieh expressed support for direct flights between Taipei and Prague.
However, the issue seems to have been shelved, and the airline played no role in the Taiwanese trade delegation’s trip.
Following the Czech delegation’s visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also listed 22 achievements of bilateral interactions, including several MOUs that were signed. The two countries have indeed become closer in politics, but it is unclear how these MOUs help promote cooperation.
Some European countries have expressed their disappointment over Beijing’s empty promises in boosting investment and infrastructure. Knowing this, Taiwan should make itself a trustworthy partner and avoid making hollow promises.
Perhaps the government could start by using more than MOUs to prove its sincerity.
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