House of Commons Library

UK relations with Taiwan

Published Thursday, October 19, 2017

A debate on ‘UK relations with Taiwan’ has been scheduled for Tuesday 24 October in Westminster Hall at 9.30am. The debate has been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

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The UK position on Taiwan was succinctly summarised in written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the course of a 2006 inquiry on East Asia (HC 860-I, para 174-5):

 Under the terms of a 1972 agreement with China, HMG acknowledged the position of the government of the PRC that Taiwan was a province of China and recognised the PRC Government as the sole legal government of China [… This] remains the basis of our relations with Taiwan. We do not deal with the Taiwan authorities on a government to government basis, and we avoid any act which could be taken to imply recognition […]

[…] HMG’s principle objectives in relation to Taiwan are economic. We seek to develop UK trade and commercial involvement with Taiwan, including inward investment. We also seek to develop a wide range of unofficial links, particularly in the educational and cultural fields. We support the further economic development of Taiwan. We also welcome Taiwan’s political development and the democratic elections that have taken place there […]This position has not changed since then. The UK has no military ties with Taiwan. However, the UK does support “Taiwanese participation in international organisations where there is precedent for involvement, where Taiwan can contribute to the global good, and where there is no pre-requisite of nationhood for participation.” In July 2017, the government expressed disappointment that Taiwan had not been allowed to attend the meeting of the Assembly of the World Health Organisation earlier this year.

On the Taiwan issue, the UK position is that it should be resolved by Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China “through dialogue, in line with the views of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

In 2015, the UK exported £1.8 billion worth of goods and services to Taiwan and imported £3.5 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of £1.7 billion. The UK has run a trade deficit with Taiwan in each of the last 10 years, the largest being £2.6 billion in 2012. British exports to Taiwan peaked at £2.1 billion in 2010; UK imports from Taiwan peaked at £4.2 billion in 2012. UK exports to Taiwan represented 0.4% of all UK exports and 0.7% of UK imports in 2015. Overall, Taiwan was the UK’s 39th largest export market and 28th largest source of imports in 2015. 

Commons Debate packs CDP-2017-0190

Authors: Timothy Robinson; Jon Lunn; Matthew Ward

Topics: Asia, International trade

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