Eying further deals, Taiwan signs new trade partnership with Britain

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan and Britain signed an Enhanced Trade Partnership on Wednesday that Taipei hopes will further boost its case to join a major pan-Pacific free trade pact and bolster the island’s ties with other European states.

Taiwan views Britain as an important democratic partner despite the lack of formal ties, noting its concern over stepped-up Chinese military activities near the island, which Beijing views as its own territory, and its support for Taiwan’s participation in global bodies such as the World Health Organization.

Because of its diplomatic isolation and pressure from China, chip powerhouse Taiwan has few formal foreign trade agreements, though it is a member of the World Trade Organization and has free trade agreements with Singapore and New Zealand.

Taiwan’s top trade negotiator, John Deng, said Taiwan and Britain’s economies were complimentary and the deal would “enhance the confidence of other countries in the world to interact with us”, according to a statement from his office.

The agreement would serve as a model for other European countries to improve their trade ties with Taiwan, the island’s Office of Trade Negotiations said.

Taiwan has long urged the European Union, which Britain left in 2020, to sign an investment agreement.

Taiwan has also applied to join the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, for which Britain formally signed the treaty in July.

“Given its status as the newest member of the CPTPP, improving economic relations with the UK is also crucial for Taiwan’s application to join this landmark trade pact,” Deng said.

Bilateral trade between Taiwan and Britain totalled 8.6 billion pounds ($10.56 billion) in 2022, according to the British government.

Last month, Canada and Taiwan completed talks on a bilateral deal to boost foreign investment, and in August U.S. President Joe Biden signed legislation on implementing the “21st Century” trade initiative between the United States and Taiwan.

($1 = 0.8147 pounds)

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Alex Richardson)