Taiwanese business representatives signed a series of memoranda with the Czech and Slovak governments during the country’s largest mission to the two countries, focusing on online security, the space industry, the development of catalyst technologies, precision engineering, industrial innovations, research and development, investments, green economy, smart cities and alternative mobility.
The Taiwanese group led by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu is visiting the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania on Oct. 20-30 to promote trade relations and investment. The visit is symbolic of the resurgence of ties between the countries and Taiwan, and the downgrading of ties with China, which claims Taiwan as part of its own territory and strongly condemns any action supporting Taiwanese independence.
Czechia and Lithuania in particular, have moved away from China and cultivated ties with Taiwan over the past two years, amid disappointment over the lack of Chinese investment and resentment over what is seen as Chinese bullying.
Taiwan is also a bigger investor in much of central Europe. According to the State Secretary of the Slovak Ministry of Economy, Karol Galek, Taiwan is the second largest Asian investor in Slovakia. So far, the country has already invested more than 0.5 billion euros in Slovakia.
In 2020, Czech companies exported goods worth CZK 6.1 billion (€237 million) to Taiwan, while imports to Czechia amounted to CZK 29.4 billion. Taiwanese investment in Czech manufacturing industry in 2017 reached CZK 5.7 billion (while direct Chinese investment in manufacturing industry amounted to CZK 410 million).
Beijing has already threatened to retaliate, Reuters reported. “China will take appropriate and necessary measures to firmly uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity. No one should have any illusions about this,” Chinese diplomatic spokesman Wang Wen-pin said.
Therefore, Taiwanese companies are very cautious and do not allow Czech organizers to disclose their identities, due to threats from China. “Companies don’t want to be mentioned anywhere, even if they’re big global names. They don’t want to provoke, they’re purely after business. We’re waiting to see what that will do, if the Chinese protests come. The real danger is for Czech-Chinese trade, which depends on political support,” said Pavel Divis, president of the Czech-Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce.
According to the President of the Czech Senate, Milos Vystrcil, by developing cooperation with Taiwan, the Czech Republic is not violating anything. “We confirm our identity, our sovereignty and our independence,” Vystrcil said at the press conference, responding to a question about whether deepening cooperation would lead to increased resentment from China.
“Our obligation is to behave in a way that keeps us free, that supports democracies in other places around the world and that benefits us economically,” Vystrcil added.
According to Vystrcil, Czechia and Taiwan have very good prospects for cooperation in the fields of electromobility and semiconductor technologies, banking, medical supplies and tourism support. The business delegation meets with Czech companies from the automotive sector, chip manufacturing, space technology, pharmaceutical industry, smart engineering, biomedicine, cybersecurity, tourism and logistics.
“It will never be a question of how many jobs or investments will be created this way again. Taiwan does not ask how many free hands we have, but how many brains we have. They are looking for value-added technology companies Czech companies are playing to get a direct line to the best companies in the world,” Divis said.
Two Taiwanese banks, the semi-state-owned Taiwan Cooperative Bank and the state-owned Taiwan Export-Import Bank, plan to open branches in Prague. The directors, Paul Lei and Tai Teng-shan of Export-Import Bank, are meeting this week with representatives of the Czech Ministry of Finance and the Czech National Bank to work out the details.
“In the EU, we have an office in Brussels serving Western Europe. We are now looking to expand our operations to Central and Eastern Europe. And we chose Prague because we know the Czech Republic is the most industrialized and developed economy in the region,” Paul Lei, managing director of Taiwan Cooperative Bank, told the daily. Hospodarske Noviny.
“Representatives of both banks have confirmed their intention to establish official representative offices in the Czech Republic,” confirmed Martina Tauberova, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.