UK lawmakers visit Taiwan
Source： Taiwan Today
A delegation from the All-Party Parliamentary British-Taiwanese Group is visiting the ROC on a fact-finding mission with the goal of assessing the country’s economic, cultural and political development.
Comprising Brian Donohoe MP (Labour), Greg Hands MP (Conservatives), Lord Faulkner (Labour), Lord Grantchester (Labour) and Lord Rogan (non-affiliated) the group arrived Jan. 3 for a weeklong tour.
Delegation leader Lord Faulkner, on his seventh visit to Taiwan as a parliamentarian, said the delegation is extremely impressed with the nation’s economic development and believes the ROC government is doing an outstanding job.
“The economy appears to be in very good shape,” he said Jan. 6 in an interview with Taiwan Today. “But equally impressive is the country’s democratic development.”
According to Lord Faulkner, the real benefit of the group’s trip lies in reciprocal learning experiences. “We can observe a young democracy that is striving to achieve and progress while sharing our experiences of an older democracy under the Westminster model,” he said.
Lord Faulkner said upon returning to Britain, he will launch a debate in the House of Lords on Taiwan-U.K. relations but, more importantly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will follow up on his recommendation that it applies for membership of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union—a forum for worldwide parliamentary dialogue that strives for peace, cooperation and the firm establishment of representative democracy.
“There is no question that Taiwan’s democracy more than qualifies the country to be a member,” he said. “We will push the British parliament to support any application Taiwan puts forth, whether for full membership or observer status.”
Lord Rogan—a four-time visitor to Taiwan who first came in 1970 as a textiles buyer—is equally enthusiastic about Lord Faulkner’s IPU suggestion, urging the MOFA to prioritize this matter. “Taiwan’s application would definitely be well-received,” he said. “But we cannot take the first step, it must be made locally.”
Describing Taiwan as an outstanding base of operations for British companies looking to do business in mainland China, Lord Rogan is optimistic that the two nations can build on this foundation to forge closer ties.
“Although there are numerous areas for advancing bilateral relations,” he said, “one that must not be overlooked involves increasing the number of visits by British ministers to Taiwan.”
Lord Rogan said he has taken the issue up with David Campbell, director of the British Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan, and anticipates making headway on this matter in the near future.
“More British ministers need to visit Taiwan and experience firsthand what is happening out here,” he said. “This is one of the most effective ways for both nations to strengthen their relationship.”
Echoing Lord Faulkner and Lord Rogan’s remarks, Hands—a Taiwan second-timer—also praised the maturity of Taiwanese government officials, which he said has been impossible to ignore.
“Although we have not met any members of the opposition on this trip, it is difficult to imagine that they would not be of the same ilk,” he said. “Everyone demonstrates a good approach and we have seen nothing but capable leadership.”
Hands said ROC government policies are on track and that warming cross-strait relations have paid political and economic dividends for Taiwan.
“The country is blessed with good economics and appears to be doing fantastically well,” he said. “Taipei now resembles Tokyo and is unrecognizable from my first visit in 1991.”
But Hands cautioned Taiwan not to limit itself to domestic and regional economic success, instead looking further afield for first-class investment projects that allow the country to share its expertise with the world.
“Britain needs foreign investment and offers a variety of long-term opportunities such as transportation infrastructure and industry revitalization that Taiwan is perfectly suited to capitalize upon,” he said. “Both countries are open for business and would be wise to work together and take advantage of their respective economic strengths.”
For Donohoe, on his third visit to Taiwan, the nation has come on in leaps and bounds with upgrading its transportation infrastructure. He cites the Taiwan High Speed Railway and development of Taipei Songshan and Taiwan Taoyuan International airports as examples, also praising the network of tunnels connecting Taipei with Yilan County.
“Real advances have been made but there is still much to be done,” he said. “The extension of the Taipei-Taoyuan mass rapid transport system is not where it should be and the freeway connection needs to be upgraded.”
Although the ROC government has set the right goal of becoming a regional air hub, Donohoe said it is imperative that mainland China play its part by allowing flights to depart from all of its airports to Taiwan. “Volume is the key to making airports work,” he said, adding that this must be supported by balanced secondary airport and rail and road development.
Lord Grantchester, who is in Taiwan for the first time, said he felt privileged to experience an authentic taste of the East during his stay and was particularly looking forward to exploring the country’s cultural aspects during a visit to Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Puli Township, Nantou County.
“Learning more about Taiwanese Buddhism and its spiritual side interests me enormously,” he said. “To better understand a society, one needs to appreciate its cultural, economic and political dimensions.”
Through his frontbench energy and climate change role, Lord Grantchester pledged that Taiwan’s drive for observer status in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change would be given requisite attention in the British parliament.
“Taiwanese feel threatened by climate change and rightfully so,” he said. “Taiwan must be brought into the UNFCCC fold as this issue is one that demands united action on a global front.”
A man of eclectic interests, Lord Grantchester is also a lifelong Everton Football Club supporter and shareholder. He said that given the club’s high profile in Asia courtesy of its sponsorship with Thailand’s Chang beer, playing a preseason fixture at the 55,000-capacity state-of-the-art Kaohsiung Stadium is a real possibility.
“To stage a match at Kaohsiung Stadium would an attractive preseason proposition for Everton,” he said. “All we need is a Premier League-standard pitch and the support of the Chinese Taipei Football Association.”
“I invite officials from Taiwan’s football governing body to get in touch and see what can be done to make this event happen. Such cultural exchanges play an important role in promoting Taiwan-U.K. relations.”
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the group has met with ROC President Ma Ying-jeou and a number of top government officials, including MOFA Minister Timothy Chin-tien Yang, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan and Vice President of the Legislative Yuan Tseng Yung-chuan.
The delegation will tour Taichung City, Sun Moon Lake and the Chung Tai Chan Monastery Jan. 7 and 8 before wrapping up its visit to Taiwan Jan. 9.
Write to John Scott Marchant at email@example.com