To mark the 20th anniversary of the British Trade & Cultural Office’s (BTCO) opening in Taiwan, Mr Chris Wood, the new Director of BTCO, today met local media to set out his vision for the future of UK-Taiwan bilateral links.
Mr Wood, who took up his post in March 2013, is the seventh Director of BTCO. He said in the media conference: ”It was a great pleasure for me arriving in Taiwan to know the bilateral relations between the UK and Taiwan are in such healthy shape. Over two decades of the BTCO we have seen many successes in promoting and strengthening ties between the UK and Taiwan; in supporting British businesses to grow their commercial relations here; in providing efficient visa services for Taiwanese visitors to the UK; and in supporting British nationals who live in and visit Taiwan. It’s also a great time to look to the future and to the strengthening and deepening yet further of all the bonds between the UK and Taiwan.”
The BTCO was established in 1993 with the aim of promoting bilateral relations between the UK and Taiwan through trade and investment, culture and diplomacy as well as policy exchange. The links between the UK and Taiwan have been growing steadily in the past 20 years. For example there have been successful visits to Taiwan by senior UK figures and Taiwanese Ministers and senior officials have visited the UK. There are also significant cultural exchanges, as well as various business collaborations. These include infrastructure, rail, low carbon and renewable energy, creative industries, ICT and the financial services industries.
Since 2009 the UK has offered visa-free access to Taiwanese visitors to the UK. In 2012 we launched the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) that allows 1,000 young Taiwanese every year to live and work in the UK for up to two years. The visa-free access and YMS programme are so welcome that Taiwanese visitor numbers to the UK have increased 31% in the past five years, from 27, 821 in 2008 to 36,441 in 2012.
The UK is now the second preferred destination for Taiwanese students studying abroad, with over 15,000 Taiwanese students in the UK at any given time. Through the Chevening Scholarships scheme, we have awarded over 200 scholarships at over 50 British universities to promising future Taiwanese leaders. Since 1996 the British Council Taipei has been accredited as an organisation to implement the IELTS test and has assisted thousands of Taiwanese students studying abroad every year, as well as those going overseas to work.
Supporting British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services is one of the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s priorities. In Taiwan BTCO offers emergency passports, registration for newborn babies, and emergency assistance for British nationals in difficulties. The Taipei European School also plays an important role in the ex-pat community here, together with the British Chamber of Commerce Taipei to make UK citizens feel at home and prosper in business.
The relations between senior figures from the UK and Taiwan have become ever closer. Over the past two decades there have been successful visits to Taiwan by senior UK figures, including Lady Thatcher’s visit in 1992 and 1996. The UK All Party Parliamentary Group has also visited frequently and met with members of the Legislative Yuan to promote human rights and environmental issues.
The BTCO is engaged in promoting UK policy on climate change. In 2010, BTCO became the first carbon-neutral certified government-sector office in the world. Just this week, on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), BTCO have signed a Letter of Intent with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to develop the 2050 Calculator Taiwan version. In order to build a low carbon economy the BTCO is working with the Environmental Protection Administration and several cities in Taiwan to develop eco-cities.
The UK is the leading European destination for foreign direct investment. 180 Taiwanese companies have operations in the UK and leading high-tech companies such as D-Link, HTC and Foxconn have all chosen the UK for their European headquarters. BTCO also encourages R&D collaboration between the UK and Taiwan. Quanta Computer has recently signed a membership contract with the Open Data Institute (ODI) for fast track to access UK innovation.
The UK remains a significant investor in Taiwan with British companies establishing a permanent presence in several ICT-related areas such as semiconductor and IC design, smart phone applications as well as low carbon engine technology. In 2012 the total bilateral trade in goods hit a historic high of £5.13 billion.
Cultural links between the UK and Taiwan have also been growing steadily. In the last five years, a number of touring exhibitions from the British Museum, V&A Museum and Design Museum drew thousands of visitors in Taiwan. In addition the Royal Ballet had its Taiwan premiere to great acclaim in 2011 and the Contemporary Legend Theatre staged its unique performance of King Lear at the Edinburgh International Festival in the same year. In 2013 they will perform a brand new work, “Metamorphosis” giving its World Premiere at the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival.