1. Political Relations
In 1950, the UK switched its recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whilst maintaining the British Consulate in Tamsui. The UK continued to carry out consular and trade-related activities through the consulate based in Tamsui. It was subsequently closed after the UK and the PRC upgraded relations to Ambassadorial level in March 1972, and in June 1980 the building itself and land were returned to the Taiwanese government. The Taiwanese government’s office in the UK was set up in September 1963, and at the time was known as the Free Chinese Centre. On 15 April 1992, this was revised to become the Taipei Representative Office in the UK. In February 1976, the UK established the Anglo-Taiwan Trade Committee in Taiwan with the aim of promoting the UK trade interests with Taiwan, and in June 1989 the Committee set up a Visa Handling Unit. In October 1993, the Anglo-Taiwan Trade Committee and the UK Education Centre merged to become the British Trade and Cultural Office.
2. Education and Cultural Relations
In recent years, the number of Taiwanese students studying in the UK has continued to rise. In 2008, the UK authorities approved approximately 9,700 visa applications for Taiwanese students to study in the UK, and the total number of Taiwanese students studying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees together with those enrolled in short-term courses currently reaches 15,000. Under the Taiwanese government’s policy of encouraging study in Taiwan, the numbers of British students enrolled in undergraduate programmes and Chinese language schools in Taiwan have also continued to grow steadily. At the same time, cultural exchanges between Taiwan and the UK continue to flourish, and on the 9th of September 2001, the two countries signed an agreement related to educational and cultural exchanges, further developing exchange in this area of Taiwan-UK relations.
3. Travel and Tourism
Tourism exchanges between the Taiwan and the UK ranks above all other European countries in terms of numbers of visits per year. In 2008, over 48,391 British nationals visited Taiwan. This was a growth of 21.07% for the entire year compared with 2007. In the same year, 18,203 British nationals visited Taiwan for leisure purposes. This was a growth of 55.27% for the entire year compared with 2007, making the UK the country with the most outstanding growth in tourists (to Taiwan) in the whole of Europe. The prevalence of such exchanges in tourism has played a great role in deepening British awareness and appreciation of Taiwan’s democratic and economic development, as well as for its multi-faceted society and cultural heritage. To this extent, such exchanges also contribute greatly towards the development of the overall relationship between the UK and Taiwan.
The UK Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced on 9th February 2009 the final outcomes of the UK first global review of its visa regimes. The UK concluded that Taiwan presents a low migration risk and lifted the visitor visa requirement for Taiwan passport holders coming to the UK for less than six months, and who are not seeking to work, effective from 3rd March 2009.It is expected that this will enhance the bilateral exchange between Taiwan and the UK in the areas of trade, culture, science and technology and education.
4. Trade and Investment
In 2008, the total amount of bilateral trade between the UK and Taiwan reached US$5.5 billion, marking a 0.2% increase from the previous year. Among them, Taiwan’s exports to the UK stood at US$3.6 billion, marking a 0.4% increase in comparison with 2007, while Taiwan’s imports from the UK stood at US$1.9 billion, indicating a 0.1% decrease compared with the previous year. The UK currently ranks as Taiwan’s 19th largest trade partner, the 13th largest market for Taiwan’s exports, and the 25th largest source of Taiwan’s imports. The UK also ranks as Taiwan’s 3rd largest trade partner in Europe.
In 2008, Taiwan’s exports to the UK mainly consisted of IT-related products and components, vehicle and parts, steel products and plastic products. The UK’s exports to Taiwan mainly consisted of pharmaceutical/medical suppliers, vaccine, whisky and office machinery.
The U.K. is the best investment destination in Europe for Taiwanese companies. According to the statistics of the Investment Commission, Ministry of Economic Affairs, from 1952 to 2008, Taiwanese companies have invested in 162 projects in the UK, with a total cumulative investment amount of US$0.5 billion, mainly in the ICT, financial services and transportation industries. Meanwhile, UK companies have invested in 516 projects in Taiwan, with a total cumulative investment amount of US$5.2 billion, mainly in retail chain store, financial services, pharmaceutical industries etc.
5. Science and Technology Exchanges
As stipulated for under the provisions of the UK–Taiwan Bilateral Scientific Cooperation Agreement, exchanges have been helping to forge a strong mutual relationship. Various exchanges are being carried out including the holding of bilateral conferences in areas including telecoms and IT, nano-technology research, stem cell research, silicon systems, farming and biological technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical, genetics, marine energy technology and in areas of art- and humanities research.
6. Financial Relations
Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission（FSC）has continuously maintained close supervisory cooperation with the UK’s single regulator, the Financial Services Authority(FSA). Moreover, the FSC and the FSA signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the 16th of January 2007 which further strengthened cooperation between Taiwan and the U.K. There are five Taiwanese commercial banks which have set up London branches, namely the Bank of Taiwan, Hua Nan Bank, Chang Hwa Bank, First Bank and Mega International Bank. The China Trust Bank has established a representative office. SinoPac Securities has set up its European subsidiary in London.
Meanwhile, Standard Charter and HSBC have both set up branches and subsidiaries in Taiwan. Barclays and HSBC Taipei Branch further operate securities business in Taiwan. The largest two U.K. insurance groups, Aviva and Prudential, have also set up subsidiary or invested in domestic insurance companies in Taiwan. At the end of January 2009, the Taiwan stock market value invested in by foreign investors reached 28.42% with UK investors comprising 5.11%. The foregoing achievement highlights the closer mutual financial relationship between Taiwan and the U.K.