Taiwan-UK Relations

  1. General Introduction
    In 1950, the UK switched its recognition from the Republic of China (ROC) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Despite this diplomatic change, the UK maintained the British Consulate in Tamsui, Taipei, and through it continued to conduct consular and trade-related activities. In March 1972, the UK and PRC upgraded diplomatic relations to Ambassadorial level and the British Consulate was subsequently closed, though the British government retained the consulate building until June 1980, when it was returned to the ROC government. The ROC government’s office in the UK was established in September 1963 under the name of the Free Chinese Centre (FCC); it retained this title until 15 April, 1992, when it was renamed the Taipei Representative Office in the UK. In February 1976, the UK, seeking to promote its economic interests in Taiwan, established the Anglo-Taiwan Trade Committee in Taipei, which later set up a Visa Handling Unit in June 1989. The Anglo-Taiwan Trade Committee and the UK Education Centre later merged in October 1993 to become the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO). The BTCO changed its name to British Office Taipei (BOT) on 26 May, 2015, to better reflect the full scope of its work.

Taiwan is dedicated to developing bilateral relations and the promotion of wide-ranging co-operation with the United Kingdom. The British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group has a 150-strong membership base, making it among the largest groups of its kind within UK Parliament. The current Co-Chairs are Nigel Evans MP and Lord Steel. In October 2014, the Lord Speaker of the UK House of Lords, Baroness D’Souza became the first ever Lord Speaker to visit Taiwan, symbolizing the positive development between both countries.

On 3 March, 2009, Taiwan was greenlighted for the British government’s visa-waiver programme. This decision was based on the UK Border Agency’s worldwide review of visa regimes assessing Taiwan as a low risk country. Taiwan’s inclusion in the programme has seen the number of ROC passport holders visiting the UK increase significantly. During the first year of Taiwan’s inclusion in 2009, the number increased to 54,200 from 26,100 in 2008. Statistics indicate that 82,900 ROC citizens have visited the UK in 2015 and the number continues to increase.

On 1 January, 2012, the Taiwan-UK Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) was launched. The scheme provides 1,000 visas to Taiwanese youths between the ages of 18 and 30 with the opportunity to visit Taiwan each year.

Participants of the YMS are able to conduct full or part time work, carry out voluntary activities, or study in their target countries and in doing so, gain an insight into the respective cultures, societies and lifestyles of the UK and Taiwan.

In 2016, the UK government announced the Registered Traveller Service opens to Taiwan passport holders. The scheme improves the convenience for ROC citizens who visit the UK on a frequent basis.

  1. Trade and Investment
    In 2016, the total bilateral trade between the UK and Taiwan amounted to US$5.48 billion. Taiwan’s exports to the UK stood at US$3.64 billion, while Taiwan’s imports from the UK stood at US$1.84 billion. The UK ranks as Taiwan’s 3rd largest trading partner in Europe, while Taiwan is the UK’s 8th largest trading partner in Asia.

In the same period of time, Taiwan’s exports to the UK mainly consisted of radio navigational aid apparatus, solid-state non-volatile storage devices, parts and accessories of the machines of heading 84.71, bicycles, telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks, other screws and bolts, portable automatic data processing machines, other parts and accessories of vehicles of headings 87.11 to 87.13, articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics or athletics and other hand tools. The UK’s exports to Taiwan mainly consisted of whisky, spacecraft (including satellites) and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles, other medicaments, sedan (of a cylinder capacity exceeding 3,000 cc), machines and apparatus for the manufacture of semiconductor devices or of electronic integrated circuits, sedan (of a cylinder capacity exceeding 1,500 cc but not exceeding 3,000 cc), anti-cancer preparations and other machinery of heading 84.79.

The UK is the most popular investment destination in Europe for Taiwanese companies. According to the statistics of the Investment Commission, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan companies have invested in 189 projects in the UK, mainly in the ICT, financial services and transportation industries as of August 2015.

  1. Financial Relations
    The ROC Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) has continuously maintained close co-operation with the UK’s new regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). On 16 January, 2007, the FSC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Financial Supervisory Authority, the predecessor of FCA and PRA, to further strengthen co-operation between the two sides.

As of April 2017, five Taiwan commercial banks maintain London branches, namely, the Bank of Taiwan, Hua Nan Bank, Chang Hwa Bank, First Bank and Mega International Bank. In addition, Taiwan’s SinoPac Securities has set up its European subsidiary in London, whilst British banks such as Standard Chartered and HSBC have both set up branches and subsidiaries in Taiwan. Furthermore, Barclays and HSBC Taipei Branch operate securities business in Taiwan and the two largest UK insurance groups, Aviva and Prudential, have also set up subsidiaries or invested in domestic insurance companies in Taiwan.

  1. Education and Cultural Relations
    In the field of education, the UK and Taiwan enjoy close and frequent co-operation. To promote co-operation and exchange in English and Mandarin across all levels of education, Taiwan and the UK signed a joint ‘Agreement on Education and Culture’ on 25 September, 2001. Renewals of the ‘Memorandum on Collaboration in Education’ were also signed on 4 November, 2005, and 4 November, 2011.

According to statistics, there are 16,000 ROC students in the UK, including 3,815 students pursing for the UK University’s degree. The UK has therefore become the second most popular destination, after the USA, for Taiwan students to study overseas and attend short-term language courses.

Moreover, the ROC Ministry of Education grants annual Taiwan Scholarships and Huayu Enrichment Scholarships for UK students to read for academic degrees or study Mandarin in Taiwan. Taiwan has been promoting the ‘Spotlight Taiwan Project’ since 2013, when agreements were signed with the well-known School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and the University of Edinburgh, to launch a series of cultural events introducing Taiwan.

For many years, Taiwan artists have taken part in the ‘Edinburgh Festival Fringe’, the largest arts festival in the world. From 2014, the first ever “Taiwan Season” was launched to showcase Taiwan performing groups in the Festival. Among the 3,000 groups present at the festival, Taiwan’s artists attracted much attention and were well received by the UK media, including The Times and the Scotsman, demonstrating Taiwan’s strengths in cultural export and soft power. In 2017, many of ROC artists had joint exhibition and performance in the Victoria and Albert Museum, while some are invited to participate in Liverpool Biennial show.

  1. Science and Technology collaboration
    In 1999 the ROC National Science Council (NSC) signed its first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Royal Society, UK. More co-operative programmes have since been set up in the form of science and technology (S&T) MoUs between the NSC and other leading academic funding agencies in the UK. These pertain to the Royal Society, the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Under these arrangements co-operative activities are supported in modes of high-level official visits, scientific exchange visits, bilateral workshops and information sharing.

Since the Ministry of Science and Technology was formed in March 2014, it has continued to promote interaction with S&T policy and strategy enforcing bodies in the UK government, as well as UK universities and research and development institutes. The aim is to broaden the existing collaborative platform and bring about benefit for both Taiwan and UK scientific communities.