Taiwan | Lords Debate : 3rd March 2022

Taiwan | Lords Debate : 3rd March 2022

There was a short debate in Grand Committee in the House of Lords on Thursday 3rd March with the simple title of Taiwan. It was tabled by Baroness D’Souza (Crossbench), a former Speaker of the House of Lords and long time advocate of Taiwan.

She described Taiwan as the “Ukraine of the Far East” and cited he increase in military threats from China over the past year. She praised current government relations with Taiwan but asked them to go further.

She also asked for their support in Taiwan joining the CPTPP, what the UK was doing to boost Taiwan’s military defence capabilities, and called for strong definite commitments in the wake of what is happening in Ukraine.

Lord Bethell (Conservative) and former Health Minister, who also has a long-standing interest and personal connections to Taiwan, endorsed Baroness D’Souza’s comments.

He noted that as a Health Minister, he never managed to speak with his Taiwanese opposite number, even though at the height of the pandemic, Taiwan had much to teach the UK.

He recommended five simple measures that he believes the UK Government can take to demonstrate its commitment to Taiwan. They were:

  1. Cabinet level visits to Taiwan. He suggests that Health Secretary Sajid Javid could go to speak with the Taiwanese authorities about public health.
  2. Push further for Taiwan to attend international bodies, including possible as invited guests to the G7 and the D10.
  3. Closer work with Taiwan on counteracting coercive economic measures from China.
  4. A free trade agreement with Taiwan along the lines of the one recently signed with New Zealand.
  5. Bolster UK defence commitments to Taiwan in line with the USA’s Taiwan Relations Act.

Lord Dholakia (Lib Dem) is another long-standing advocate of Taiwan. He piled praise on Taiwan’s democracy and flagged the work that was going into abolishing the death penalty in Taiwan. He urged the Minister to push the Taiwanese authorities to get this over the line.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) asked about diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a free trade agreement, and what work was happening to help Taiwan join international organisations such as the World Health Organisation.

Lord Rogan (UUP and Co-Chair of the British Taiwanese APPG) called for full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and for the Taiwanese Representative to the UK, Kelly Hsieh, to be granted full Ambassadorial status.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab – British Trade Envoy to Taiwan) spoke in detail about the trade relations between Taiwan and the UK. He also spoke about the role the UK was playing in helping Taiwan’s ambitious to be a fully bilingual nation (Traditional Mandarin and English) by 2030.

Lord Londesborough (Crossbench) rightly noted the differences between Taiwan and Ukraine and expressed his view that events in Ukraine do not mean that Taiwan has to be next. He asked whether the UK would step up lobbying over Taiwan’s involvement in international organisations.

Baroness Northover (Lib Dem), Viscount Waverley (Crossbench), Lord Truscott (Non-Affiliated), Lord Purvis of Tweed (Lib Dem), Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab), also contributed to the debate.

Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon (Con – Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office) responded on behalf of the Government.

He began his speech with a focus on Ukraine but agreed that “Taiwan is an important democratic partner in the world to the United Kingdom” and praised many aspects of Taiwan’s civil society and its democratic journey.

In response to Lord Bethell’s comments, he noted that Greg Hands MP visited Taiwan twice as a Trade Minister but said the Government policy on Ministerial visits remains unchanged.

He described the UK’s unofficial relationship with Taiwan as “unique” without suggesting that should change. He also said the UK was in dialogue with all partners to stress the importance of peace in the Taiwan Straits.

On Trade, he went no further than talking up the Annual Trade talks between Taiwan and the UK and the Energy dialogue between the two countries. He also reiterated cooperation on digital and high tech engagement, education, and human rights, specifically noting that the UK is bolstering co-operation between the British Office and the Taiwanese National Human Rights Commission on democratic principles and values.

He stressed that the UK is working on international engagement and rolled out the old phrase that the UK supports “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organisations, as a member where statehood is not a prerequisite.”

On COVID-19, he noted that the UK has “facilitated expert-level dialogues between UK health experts and the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, and will be taking forward plans this year for a UK-Taiwan expert health dialogue.”

His conclusion emphasised the fact that, despite events in Ukraine, “the UK’s long-standing position on Taiwan has not changed.”

All of the different aspects of UK-Taiwanese relations that Lord Ahmed highlighted are welcome. But as several Peers noted in their contributions, and the Taiwan Policy Centre advocates, there are a number of different areas where the UK can and must go further.

You can watch the full debate here.


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