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China urges UK to stop using trade to enhance ties with Taiwan

Representative at the British Office in Taipei John Dennis (center, seated), signed the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) with Taiwan, on November 8, 2023.

China has urged the United Kingdom to refrain from using trade to enhance relations with Taiwan, expressing its strong opposition to any form of official contact between London and the self-ruled island.

China’s embassy in London sounded that alarm in a statement on Thursday, just a day after Taiwan’s representative to the UK, Kelly Hsieh, and his British counterpart based in Taipei, John Dennis, signed a new Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP).

The newly-inked agreement helps both sides hold talks on green energy, digital trade and investment, among other trade-based issues.

On Wednesday, British Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston and Taiwan Deputy Economy Minister Chen Chern-Chyi held talks in London.

“We urge the UK to abide by the one-China principle and stop using trade cooperation as an excuse to engage in official exchanges or enhance substantive relations with Taiwan,” China’s embassy in London said.

It also stressed that Beijing has always firmly opposed any form of official contact between countries that have diplomatic relations with China and “China’s Taiwan region.”

China has sovereignty over Taiwan, and nearly all countries recognize that sovereignty under the internationally-recognized “one-China” policy, meaning that they would not establish diplomatic contact with its secessionist government.

London has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei but the two governments have close economic and informal relations and they both maintain de facto embassies in each other’s capitals.

The UK, Taiwan’s third-biggest trading partner in Europe, does not officially recognize the government in Taiwan.

The secessionist government in Taiwan is striving to add the island to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), of which the UK is the newest member.

Joining the multilateral trade agreement requires the unanimous support of current members, and several – particularly Japan – are firmly opposed to China’s inclusion.

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