We need closer links to Taiwan
Sir, – The European Parliament last Wednesday passed two resolutions with statements supporting Taiwan’s democracy. For the first time, the resolutions encourage EU member states to “revisit their engagement policies with Taiwan” and to work with international like-minded partners “to protect democratic Taiwan from foreign threats”, according to an article on the Focus Taiwan news website.
Despite the so-called “One China Policy”, 17 EU member states currently maintain trade offices in Taiwan and also engage through the EU mission office in Taipei. Ireland closed its Institute for Trade and Investment office there in 2012 due to “austerity measures”. It has also been noted previously by this paper (Michael McDowell, “Time to stop kowtowing to China over Taiwan”, Opinion & Analysis, January 15th, 2020) that Ireland has little or no contact with the EU representative office in Taipei and, from a personal perspective, I have witnessed Ireland’s absence during events such as European trade and tourism fairs.
In response to a written parliamentary question on January 13th last, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said that “marketplace services for Irish companies targeting Taiwan are provided through Enterprise Ireland’s office in Hong Kong and locally in Taipei via a consultancy arrangement” and that “IDA Ireland, the agency responsible for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland, actively manages the Taiwanese market from its Singapore office”.
This seems like an inefficient and convoluted approach especially when compared with how we engage with similarly populated countries like Australia (population 25.3 million) where Enterprise Ireland maintains two offices and the IDA has one.
Taiwan (population 23.8 million) which is a very western-friendly gateway to Asia, has a democratically elected government, a highly proficient English-speaking population, and has been the recipient of multiple accolades for its handling of the Covid pandemic.
Given these latest EU resolutions on supporting Taiwan’s democracy, isn’t it time for the Government to revisit its engagement approach and reopen the Irish trade office in Taipei? – Yours, etc,