US allies in Europe expand high-tech economic ties with Taiwan

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Ukrainian lawmaker Kira Rudik, center right, Lithuanian politician Zygimantas Pavilionis, fourth right, and Taiwanese legislators pose for the media at the assembly hall of Taiwan Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying) ChiangYing-ying/AP

US allies in Europe expand high-tech economic ties with Taiwan

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government plans to expand high-tech economic cooperation with Taiwan, continuing a trend of Western coordination with Taipei in defiance of Chinese Communist Party objections.

“I first visited Taiwan 31 years ago in 1991, and it’s been fantastic to see the growth of this dynamic, vibrant economy,” British Trade Policy Minister Greg Hands said Monday. “Boosting trade with this vital partner is part of the U.K.’s post-Brexit tilt towards the Indo-Pacific and closer collaboration will help us future-proof our economy in the decades to come.”

The trade chief’s return to Taiwan drew a complaint from Chinese officials in Beijing who claim sovereignty over the island democracy. Yet a confluence of factors, from democratic antipathy for the authoritarian Chinese regime to Taiwan’s importance to international high-end manufacturing, has stoked Western interest in economic arrangements that Taiwanese and Chinese officials regard as an affront to Beijing’s desire to control the island.

“We firmly oppose any form of official interaction between the Taiwan region and countries having diplomatic ties with China,” Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday in reference to Hands’s visit. “We urge the U.K. to earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, adhere to the one-China principle, stop having any form of official interaction with Taiwan, and stop sending wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME? THREE WORDS BETWEEN TAIWAN AND WAR

The United Kingdom, like the United States and most other governments in the world, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which emerged as the last refuge of the nationalist government overthrown in the Chinese Communist Revolution. The nationalist regime in Taipei gave way to a democratic system of governance led by a liberal political party that was founded as a pro-independence movement but now is led by a Taiwanese president who has renounced the need to issue a declaration of independence.

Chinese officials intend for Taiwan to come under Beijing’s authority, and they have not renounced the use of military force to subjugate the island if they deem it necessary. U.S. officials have worked for decades to implement a federal law designed to deter the Chinese military from launching an invasion, and Taiwanese officials want to develop a diverse array of economic partners in order to insulate their society from Chinese economic coercion.

“Taiwan is a member of the global semiconductor supply chain ecosystem, and we believe by forging stronger partnerships across the supply chain, we can optimize the supply chain for the benefit of the world,” Taiwanese National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin told reporters in August. “So for Taiwan, our priority is to forge strong partnerships with important trading partners and also trading partners who are transparent so that we can ensure our economic security.”

Those intentions align with British interests, to judge from Hands’s priorities in meetings with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials this week. “During the Trade Talks, Innovate UK will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taiwan, pledging to increase collaboration on technology and innovation,” the British office announced. “As a leading manufacturer of semiconductors — the chips used in electronic devices like iPhones and electric vehicles — Taiwan is a key player in global supply chains. The Minister will use meetings … to promote diversified, resilient supply chains and greater economic cooperation.”

Hands arrived in Taipei as another small but influential European state expanded its own relationship with Taiwanese authorities. Lithuania, which clashed with Beijing last year over its decision to allow Taipei to open an unofficial embassy under its preferred name of Taiwan, opened its own outpost on the island, although Vilnius tempered the gesture by dubbing the office the Lithuanian Trade Representative Office in Taipei.

“I have no doubt that with the opening of Lithuania’s Trade Representative Office in Taipei, our work with this promising market will intensify,” Lithuanian Economy Minister Ausrine Armonaite said Monday. “Taiwanese business investment is very welcome in Lithuania.”

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Taiwanese officials marked the occasion by announcing that its Central and Eastern European Investment Fund will back a Lithuanian laser company to the tune of 3.5 million euros.

“Taiwan will utilize its strong expertise and partnership with technology industries in Taiwan, Asia-Pacific, and the U.S. to help Litilit grow,” Taiwan’s Eric Huang, who leads the island democracy’s unofficial embassy in Vilnius, said Monday. “There are additional cases in the pipeline to be finalized before the end of this year. There are also many other potential cases for the next year and the year after.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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