Canada, Taiwan Seek to Boost Bilateral Relationship

Exploratory discussions on a foreign investment agreement . . . 

Following a call on Sunday between Canadian International Trade Minister Mary Ng and Taiwanese Minister and head of the Cabinet's Office of Trade Negotiations, John Deng, Canada and Taiwan announced they would launch exploratory discussions on a foreign investment promotion and protection arrangement (FIPA). During the call, the two ministers discussed ways to expand bilateral trade relations and increase co-operation on science, technology, and innovation. Through FIPAs, the Government of Canada says it seeks to foster a “stable, rules-based investment environment for Canadian businesses investing abroad” and to ensure that “all Canadians, including women, Indigenous peoples and SMEs, are able to benefit from these agreements.”

Diversifying trade, seeking recognition . . .

While Taiwan is self-governing, China claims the island as a breakaway province and part of China’s territory under what Beijing refers to as the ‘one-China principle.’ Beijing has vigorously opposed any countries having official diplomatic or military exchanges with the island. Like many other countries, Canada follows a ‘one-China policy,’ in which it does not recognize a sovereign Taiwan and does not have official diplomatic relations with the island. But also, like many other countries, Canada has had a presence in Taipei since 1986 through an active trade office. Analysts have observed that Canada and Taiwan have been interested in a bilateral FIPA for a few years now, but the spat between Ottawa and Beijing over the arrests of Meng Wanzhou and the Two Michaels made pursuing such a strategy a diplomatic non-starter.

What’s next for Canada-Taiwan relations?

China usually doesn’t oppose informal trade relations with Taiwan, and its reaction to the FIPA announcement has been as expected. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that “the Canadian side should respect the one-China principle and handle relevant issues prudently.” Taiwan is currently Canada’s 19th largest export market, importing C$1.8 billion worth of Canadian goods in 2020 and receiving C$2.9 billion in Canadian investment since 2003. Canadians generally hold a favourable perception of Taiwan, with a majority of Canadians having warm feelings towards the island and 64 per cent indicating that Canada should expand relations.