Taiwan Government and International – April 2018

U.S. Steel Tariffs Hit Taiwan

Taiwan sent a delegation to the United States on March 18 with the goal of negotiating an exemption to the steep tariff hike on imported steel and aluminum imposed by President Donald Trump.

On March 8, Trump signed an order imposing a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on aluminum. Before the tariffs took effect on March 23, the U.S. government was already engaged in talks with several major trade and strategic partners over exemptions. Some 53% of imported steel will come from countries that were given such exemptions, including Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and the European Union. The Taiwanese delegation was led by Taiwan’s top trade negotiator and former Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng, but has so far failed to win exemptions for Taiwan’s steel and aluminum.

Taiwan’s steel industry has an annual production value of NT$1.116 trillion (US$38.27 billion) and is primarily aimed at meeting domestic demand. Only 27% is exported, according to the Bureau of Foreign Trade. The United States is Taiwan’s single largest export market, however, taking about 13% of Taiwan’s exported steel.

China Fleet Enters Taiwan Waters

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escort warships passed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, March 20, entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone at 8 p.m. and exiting the next day shortly after noon. The fleet was on its way to participate in naval exercises in the South China Sea, another part of the region to which China lays claim. Taiwan’s Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa confirmed to the Legislative Yuan that the military had dispatched ships and aircraft to monitor the fleet’s passage.

China’s state-run tabloid the Global Times linked the passage of the Liaoning to the United States’ signing of the Taiwan Travel Act on March 17. Taiwanese defense specialists cast doubt on that assertion, noting that such voyages take weeks to prepare. They viewed the passage of the fleet as more likely linked to the closing session of the Chinese National People’s Congress the same day.

MAC, SEF, AND CCNAA Get New Leaders

Chen Ming-tung, a professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, took over as minister of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) on March 19 – the same day that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) also welcomed its new minister, Liu Jieyi. Chen had previously served as deputy head of MAC when Tsai Ing-wen was its minister from 2000-2004 during the Chen Shui-bian administration, and served as MAC minister for a year in 2007.

Chen took over MAC from Katherine Chang, who took the helm of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) on March 27. Because Taiwan and China have little direct governmental contact, SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), handle most cross-Strait communication and negotiations.

In another personnel change, lawyer and former prosecutor and international trade negotiator Lin Liang-jung was appointed the new head of Taiwan’s Coordination Council for North American Affairs (CCNAA) on March 1, and immediately got embroiled in long-standing issues related to the leanness enhancing additive ractopamine found in U.S.-produced pork but which Taiwan bans. CCNAA was established in 1979, after the United States ended formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, as a channel to maintain bilateral relations.

German NGOs for Taichung Center

With the establishment of an International NGO Center last summer, Taichung is aiming to position itself as a regional hub for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Now the 20-hectare center has attracted its first tenants.

On March 12, at a ceremony presided over by Vice President Chen Chien-jen, two German search-and-rescue NGOs – the Bundesverband Rettungshunde (German Search and Rescue Dog Association) and International Search and Rescue Germany (I.S.A.R. Germany) – officially opened branches at the INGO Center. It is the first overseas branch for the German Search and Rescue Dog Association, which has already established connections with Taiwan. One of the dogs it helped train, Tie-hsiung (“Iron Hero”), a four-year-old  Labrador Retriever, gained national acclaim for his part in rescuing victims of the February 6 Hualien earthquake.