UK Minister Visits Taiwan to Foster Closer Ties

UK Minister of State of the Department for International Trade, Greg Hands MP met President Tsai Ing-wen during a 2-day visit, and spoke to government, business leaders, and students.

In a speech delivered at National Chengchi University, Mr Hands spoke about the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, and assured Taiwan that Britain will remain a strong ally and trusted partner.

Transcript of speech:

“Good morning.Thank you for the warm welcome – It is great to be back in Taiwan.

My brother lived here in Taipei for most of the last 25 years and I have always been struck by the warmth of the welcome and the great hospitality from the Taiwan people.

When I first came in 1991, Taiwan was emerging from Martial Law and embracing democracy and pluralism. It was still a developing world economy, with a GDP of under $8,000 per capita.

Today, it is a flourishing beacon of democracy and respect for the rule of law, and the economy is a modern wonder of the world.

Wealth per person has trebled in those 25 years and Taiwan is now the 23rd richest place in the world!

I came in 1991 with a backpack, keen to explore, and went for 2 weeks hiking in Taroko Gorge and travelled on the famous Alishan Mountain Railway.

Now I am here only for a few days, but come as the UK Trade Minister, keen to do what I can to grow our UK-Taiwan economic relationship further.

Let me first talk about major events in the UK which have happened in recent months.

As you well know, in June the British people made a historic decision to leave the European Union. It was a decision that was born out of a desire to take back control of our economic and political destiny.

The UK will now be able to place itself right at the centre of an increasingly interconnected world – no longer having to compromise our own ambitions to satisfy 27 other diverse member states.

There are some who claim that a vote to leave the European Union is akin to the UK turning its back to the world.

This cannot be further from the truth.

We have always been a forward looking and big thinking nation, and that will not change.

Let’s not forget that the UK is the 5th biggest economy in the world and the easiest major advanced economy with which to do business – according to the World Bank.

The strength of the British economy has meant that there has been little adverse impact from the Brexit vote so far.

We maintain record numbers of people in work, and the lowest unemployment rate in a decade.

Since 2010, we have seen over 900,000 more private sector businesses created, and our budget deficit has been cut by two thirds.

And investment continues to come to the UK after the referendum. Look at Softbank’s huge investment into British tech firm ARM, or the more recent vote of confidence in the UK economy by GlaxoSmithKline – who have pledged ????million to expand their factory sites.

And it is easy to see why investors are still backing the UK.

We have one of the most business friendly environments in the world: one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the G20, a widely admired system of commercial law, low levels of industrial disruption; some of the best universities in the world and we’re in a good time-zone for global trading.

Too often, when people think of the UK, they look no further than London. Whilst London is one of the international financial capitals of the world, there is capability across the UK. A car rolls off a UK production line every 20 seconds, we are one of the biggest manufacturers of jet engines in the world and the 3rd largest defence exporter.

We want the EU to succeed, we just don’t want to be governed by it. And we will leave in a way that causes minimal disruption for our European partners with whom we will continue to have strong economic ties.

We are not leaving Europe, we are re-joining the rest of the world.

And that brings me nicely onto why I am here in Taiwan.

If the UK is to become the beacon of open trade I know we can be, we need to strengthen ties with hugely important markets like Taiwan – one of the four Asian Tigers.

Your growth in the second half of the 20th Century was nothing short of staggering, and you remain a key trading partner for the UK as we look to forge a bright independent trading future.

Our trading relationship is already healthy, but there is plenty of extra potential we can fulfil.

Our trade volumes have grown by 50% over the last 5 years: Taiwan is currently the UK’s sixth largest trading partner in the Asia Pacific region and the UK is your third largest trading partner in Europe.

Recent years have seen a massive rise in Taiwanese investment into the UK: ٟ.2bn in 2015, making the UK your largest investment destination in Europe. Over 180 Taiwanese companies are currently established in the UK, including ACER and HTC. But this isn’t a one way street. The UK is responsible for nearly 20% of all of Europe’s investment into Taiwan. Over 300 world renowned British companies, such as HSBC, Standard Chartered, Barclays and Jardines have chosen to invest here.

But it isn’t just trade where our co-operation has triumphed. Across tourism, where over 150,000 British and Taiwanese visited our two islands last year; and in science and research where multiple MOUs have been signed involving the Royal Society and the British Academy. All this shows a collaborative spirit which I hope will endure for many years.

But given where I am standing today, it would be remiss of me to not mention our strong educational ties. Every year around 5,000 Taiwanese students go to the UK to study on long term courses. President Tsai, who I will be fortunate to meet today, also studied in London – where I am a Member of Parliament.

These students are the entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future, and I am glad they are experiencing first hand our strong shared ties.

I want to see more of this type of exchange and I am confident that we will. The UK is home to 4 of the top 10 universities in the world; we are a global leader in science and innovation with over 13 Nobel prizes in science since 2000; and we have been ranked second in the Global Innovation Index for two years in a row.And with world class universities such as Cheng Chi here in Taiwan, I am sure British students will increasingly look East to further their studies.

Before I finish I would like to make two points. First, to the students here today: you are at one of the finest educational institutions in Taiwan and the world. Your generation is the most tech savvy and connected in history – with access to resources my peers could only have dreamed of. My plea is that you don’t become too worried about knowing or not knowing about what you want to be just yet; when I was your age if you had told me that one day I would be a government minister I would have laughed.

One of my first jobs was working as a swimming pool attendant in Berlin during my gap year; I then worked in a McDonalds and a department store during my university vacations. After this I became a financial trader, working on trading floors in London and New York, before finally entering politics. Not exactly a linear career path!

What I would say is more important than knowing where you’re going is for you now to be completely open minded: think big, make friends across the globe, and always be open to the world.

My second message is to confirm that this is exactly what the UK is now doing. We are thinking big, renewing friendships, and preparing to re-engage with the world in a way we haven’t been able to do for years.

To put us in the best place to succeed, we will need to strengthen ties with partners such as Taiwan. The UK and Taiwan have always enjoyed a very productive and prosperous economic and cultural relationship. I want this to deepen and continue for many years to come.

Thank you.”

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