HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 cc935-6
12. Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to improve diplomatic and commercial links between the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad)

Although the United Kingdom has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, we attach great importance to our commercial, cultural and other links. British exports rose in 1993 by 22 per cent. to £668 million. The United Kingdom has attracted over half of Taiwanese investment in Europe. The British Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei, established in October 1993, is being reinforced with additional staff to develop those links further.

Mr. Lidington

While accepting that we do not recognise Taiwan diplomatically, may I ask my right hon. Friend to assure the House that the Government will ensure that we have enough people of sufficient calibre in Taiwan to help to guarantee that British companies, rather than French or Japanese ones, make money out of that important market?

Mr. Goodlad

Indeed, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Starting with the establishment of the British trade and cultural office in Taipei, we are taking steps to achieve a commercial presence in Taiwan. We are increasing the number of United Kingdom-based staff from three to four and strengthening the number of locally engaged commercial staff. The year 1994 has started well: Davy International announced at the weekend a blast furnace contract worth $97 million, which will also provide work for about 250 subcontractors in this country and spare parts will be supplied for many years to come.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is it not about time that we recognised the Taiwanese Government and set up diplomatic relations with them, given the importance of that country to our economy? Will the Minister convey to the Taiwanese authorities the great concern of many of us at the stockpiling of rhino horn in that country—[Interruption.] Rhino are an endangered species—I wish that Conservative Members would recognise that. Will the Minister tell the Taiwanese authorities that if they would act against the dealers they could do something to preserve the endangered species of rhino in Africa?

Mr. Goodlad

On the subject of recognition, the British Government acknowledge the position of the Peoples Republic of China and that Taiwan is a province of China. We recognise the Government of the Peoples Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. In our view the status of Taiwan is a matter for Peking and Taipei to resolve between themselves.

On the subject of rhino horn, on which I know that the hon. Gentleman is a considerable expert, trade is a matter for the European Community as a whole. We made it clear that there was significant concern in the United Kingdom about rhinos. Other member states agreed to maintain pressure on Taiwan and review the need for further action in the light of progress later this year.

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that although normal diplomatic relations between this country and Taiwan do not exist, the Chinese on Taiwan nevertheless give our representatives in Taipei de facto though not de jure diplomatic recognition? In view of growing trade and improving relations between our two countries, and the fact that the Republic of China on Taiwan is now a fully fledged democracy, is it not about time that we gave the same democratic status to Taipei's representatives in Britain, and the niceties that go with that?

Mr. Goodlad

All Taiwan representative offices in the United Kingdom are private companies or institutions. Under British legislation, exemption from tax, import duties and so on is available only to diplomatic missions considered as such under the terms of the Vienna convention. We have no intention of using the legal situation to create difficulty for the Taiwanese offices here.

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