Taiwan-UK economic ties go from strength to strength
Source： Taiwan Today
Taiwan and the U.K. may be separated by thousands of kilometers, but the drive to achieve greater national prosperity is bringing the governments and peoples of both countries closer together. This shared goal is characterized by bilateral trade and investment numbers that demonstrate resilience in the face of global economic woes.
The growing importance of such bilateral economic exchanges was highlighted by Lin Sheng-chung, ROC deputy economic minister, during an address to the 14th joint meeting of the Taiwan Britain Business Council April 23 in London. Comprising senior corporate leaders from Taiwan and the U.K., the council fosters trade and investment links between the two countries.
According to Lin, last year Taiwan imports from the U.K. grew 15.49 percent to 1.25 billion pounds (US$2.02 billion), while the island’s exports to Britain increased 27.6 percent to 3 billion pounds. Two-way investment was up from 2010 and as of February, Taiwan companies had spent 327 million pounds on their U.K. operations.
Over the same period, British firms invested 4.1 billion pounds in Taiwan, spanning various sectors such as chemicals, financial services, machinery and medicine. Since 1988 Taiwan has ranked among Britain’s top 14 best prospect export markets, with the U.K. the island’s 18th largest trading partner globally and third largest in Europe.
Although these results are encouraging, the deputy minister believes both nations can do even better with the council serving as a valuable platform for expanded dialogue.
Taiwan companies have long viewed the U.K. as a favorable destination for their European headquarters. The country is well-suited to the can-do business model championed on the island, and already many firms are making noteworthy achievements in the industries of mobile and wireless technology, renewable energy and biotechnology.
HTC Corp., Holy Stone Healthcare Co. Ltd., Kenmark Group and MediaTek Inc. are some of the brightest stars on the U.K. investment scene. In fact, more than 180 companies from Taiwan have invested in Britain, proving that for accessing the high-end markets of Europe, there is no better place to be based than the U.K.
Expanding business ties between the two countries reaffirm that distance and cultural diversity are not major barriers for nations with common ideals, values and interests. Taiwan’s growing reputation as a major donor of international aid underscores this mantra, especially when it comes to the ROC’s 23 diplomatic allies, 10 of which are members of the Commonwealth.
Belize, The Gambia, Nauru, Kiribati, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu are all partners in Taiwan assistance programs fostering sustainable development through agriculture, education and renewable energy projects. For many of these countries, the ROC government is the largest single source of external assistance.
This reality is beginning to dawn on many British policymakers, perhaps explaining why more top officials are making their way to the island. Proof of the pudding lies in the visit late last year of Stephen Graham, U.K. minister of state for trade and investment, to attend the 16th Taiwan-U.K. consultation and trade cooperation conference held in Taipei City.
Graham’s trip confirms the widely held belief that for the business-minded British, Taiwan is increasingly viewed as a gateway for expanding their economic, trade and investment interests in the Asia-Pacific region. It seems almost impossible now to ignore the island’s first-class commercial credentials, including World Trade Organization membership, close links to emerging economies, growing profile as a regional trade and investment hub and the landmark Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
For Taiwan, it is important British firms clearly understand the meaning of the ECFA and ROC government’s process of greater engagement with mainland China. A wealth of business opportunities abounds and there is not time to waste in getting this message out.
Since ROC President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, his cross-strait policies have ushered in a new era of relations between Taipei and Beijing. While the ECFA is the centerpiece of this progress, it is just one of 16 major agreements, including aviation and shipping pacts that have helped transform Taiwan into an invaluable base for accessing the mainland Chinese market.
There are up to 561 direct flights per week between Taiwan and 41 mainland Chinese cities, and ROC-registered vessels can visit 16 ports on the Yangtze River and in 52 other parts of mainland China. No other country boasts such access, making Taiwan the perfect trade partner for the U.K. going forward.
The good news is that a growing band of British officials and lawmakers are jumping on the Taiwan bandwagon and voicing support for the island’s bid to conclude an economic cooperation agreement with the EU. In this respect, the ECFA is an excellent example of what can be achieved through greater economic integration and should provide added impetus for the fast-tracking of this goal.
As both countries grow in stature as global advocates of creativity, innovation and new economy opportunities, capitalizing on resulting synergies ensures Taiwan and the U.K. will continue forging a strong economic partnership. This stands to deliver benefits for the people of both nations and help build flourishing societies for the betterment of all.
John Wren is a freelance writer based in Keelung. These views are the author’s and not necessarily those of Taiwan Today. Copyright © 2012 by John Wren
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