Taiwan Government and International – August 2021

Taiwanese delegates to the 11th Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) trade talks, which took place on June 30, give a press conference after the meeting's conclusion.

U.S.-Taiwan TIFA Talks Resume

The 11th Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) trade talks between the U.S. and Taiwan convened on June 30 following a five-year hiatus. Taiwan’s delegation was led by Yang Jen-ni, deputy trade representative in the Office of Trade Negotiations. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Terry McCartin headed the U.S. delegation, which included officials from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Labor, State, and Treasury.  

The delegates identified opportunities for collaboration between the U.S. and Taiwan to solve key trade and environmental issues and to enhance the bilateral trade and investment relationship. Both sides expressed support for enhancing critical supply chain security and resilience.  

U.S. and Taiwanese officials also agreed to address other outstanding trade issues, including market access barriers for U.S. beef and pork suppliers, as well as to collaborate on environmental issues. According to a statement from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. delegation raised concerns with Taiwan regarding “copyright legislation, digital piracy, financial services, investment and regulatory transparency.” 

Since the last TIFA talk, progress has been made in several areas, including Taiwan’s enforcement of trade secrets protections and changes to the island’s medical device approval process. Both sides highlighted the increased cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan in international organizations, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Trade Organization. The delegates agreed to continue holding working group meetings throughout the year to increase engagement and tackle issues as necessary.  

Japan Strengthens Stance on Taiwan

In its recently released annual defense white paper, Japan for the first time moved its discussion of Taiwan from the section on China to a new chapter on U.S.-China relations. It also stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.  

“Stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community,” the paper said. “Therefore, it is necessary that we pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever before.”  

The report also highlighted China’s increased military activities around Taiwan. For example, 380 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwanese airspace in 2020, and Chinese warships, conducting a military drill, sailed through the Bashi Channel and near the Philippines’ Y’Ami Island and Taiwan’s Orchid Island. China’s “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion” near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands were also criticized in the paper. 

According to the paper, “the overall military balance between China and Taiwan is tilting in China’s favor, and the gap appears to be growing year by year.” The U.S. has taken a more active role in supporting Taiwan in recent years via transits of naval vessels through the Taiwan Strait and increased arms sales. 

The report’s release amplified tensions between Japan and China, with Beijing expressing “firm opposition” to the report’s findings.  

Taiwan to Open Lithuania Office

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu announced on July 20 that Taiwan would open a Taiwanese Representative Office in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, the first such office to be opened in Europe in 18 years and the first to use “Taiwan” in its name.  

Soon after Wu’s announcement, Lithuania responded that it would open a trade office in Taipei this fall and confirmed that Taiwan’s representative office would open sometime this summer.  

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry stated that establishment of its new representative office supported the “goal of diversifying Lithuania’s export markets and seeking new partners among democratic states in the Indo-Pacific region.” It also expressed interest in expanding cooperation with Taiwan, with an emphasis on “the development of economic relations and cultural exchanges.” 

Lithuanian Parliament Member Dovilė Šakalienė tweeted her support of the announcement, saying that Lithuania and Taiwan will become even closer friends. “We both are small democratic states, both neighboured by bloody authoritarian regimes, but both not easily intimidated.” 

Echoing that sentiment, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted that “Taiwan and Lithuania are like-minded partners bound by an unshakeable belief in the power of freedom and democracy to promote prosperity and build brighter futures for the people.”  

Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, responding to the announcement in a social media post, urged Lithuania “to adhere to the one-China principle and not send the wrong signals to forces behind Taiwan independence.” 

Hong Kong, Macau Offices Close

Hong Kong announced on May 18 that it would shutter its Taiwan trade office, which was established in 2011 based on a bilateral agreement. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a news release that it regrets that the Hong Kong government “unilaterally” suspended those operations but that it respects the decision.  

Hong Kong later accused Taiwan of having “grossly interfered” in the territory’s affairs on repeated occasions and “created irretrievable damage” to relations. 

In mid-June, Macau also announced that it would close its Economic and Cultural Delegation in Taiwan. In response, Taiwan’s MAC expressed “deep regret over the Macau government’s unilateral decision” and stated that it would keep its trade office in Macau open. 

The recent moves follow the Hong Kong authorities’ decision last year not to renew the visas of staff at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) Hong Kong, Taiwan’s representative office in the former British colony. Reportedly several of the employees were denied the renewal based on their refusal to sign an affidavit affirming Beijing’s “One China” principle. By June, only one of the previously eight Taiwanese staff members at TECO Hong Kong remained; that employee was forced to return to Taiwan on July 30. Taiwan said it would keep the office open using local staff. 

G7 Raises Issue of Cross-strait Peace

Taiwan received unprecedented backing at the latest G7 conference when a post-summit statement called for peace across the Taiwan Strait. It was the group’s first mention of the area since its founding in 1975. 

“We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” the statement said. “We reiterate our strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order and express serious concerns about reports of militarisation, coercion, and intimidation in the region.” 

Additionally, the statement called for Taiwan’s inclusion in more international bodies, such as the World Health Organization and its policy-making body, the World Health Assembly.  

Calls for peace across the Taiwan Strait have increased in recent months as concerns mount over China’s increased military presence in the East and South China Seas. Cross-Strait peace was also mentioned for the first time at recent U.S.-Japan, U.S.-South Korea, and Australia-Japan summits.  

Xavier Chang, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, responded to the G7 statement by saying that “Taiwan will continue to deepen its partnership with G7 states and other like-minded countries and strive for greater support from the international community.”

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