Taiwan’s new top envoy in Canada says China is accelerating its timeline to seize the self-governed island and he’s calling on Ottawa to begin negotiations on a trade agreement with Taipei as a demonstration of support for the Taiwanese people.
Harry Tseng, previously deputy minister of Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said part of his job in Canada is to “not let a war happen,” and that means convincing Western countries to increase the cost for China of taking the island.
Canada promised to begin exploratory talks on an investor protection deal with Taiwan in January but the federal government can’t yet say whether Ottawa is prepared to negotiate. At issue is a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, or FIPA, that could stimulate two-way trade by enshrining legal protections for Canadian investors in Taiwan as well as Taiwanese investors in Canada.
Mr. Tseng said he thinks Chinese President Xi Jinping, who just secured a precedent-breaking third term as leader of Beijing’s authoritarian government, will alter China’s approach to Taiwan now.
Mr. Tseng said political analysts in Taiwan think Mr. Xi will use his third term to try to force Taiwan to come to the bargaining table.
“The security concerns in my part of the world, that will become a major part of my job.”
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province, even though the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled the island since taking power on the mainland in 1949. It bristles against what it considers foreign interference in the matter and has reserved the right to use force to annex Taiwan, where Nationalist forces fled after they lost a civil war to the Communists.
China has been taking steps to cut off Taiwan from the international community, including denying it the chance to participate in global bodies such as the World Health Organization’s regular assemblies, and persuading those countries that recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country to sever relations.
Beijing ramped up tensions in August by encircling Taiwan with warships firing ballistic missiles over the island.
Mr. Tseng said another blockade, one that could starve Taiwan of energy and supplies, is one way Mr. Xi could try to force the island to the negotiating table. The Chinese government believes the 1940s-era civil war remains unresolved.
Alice Hansen, press secretary for International Trade Minister Mary Ng, couldn’t say if Ottawa will proceed with trade talks with Taiwan. ”We are reviewing the results of the exploratory discussions,” she said. In a statement to The Globe and Mail in September, Global Affairs spokesperson James Emmanuel Wanki said any decision on whether to start FIPA talks with Taiwan would be based on “Canadian commercial interests.”
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Mr. Tseng on Monday said by deepening trade ties with Taiwan, Canada would be demonstrating that it has a continuing interest in the future of the self-ruled island. There are about 200,000 Canadians of Taiwanese origin in Canada.
“We hope you will show some political will to really start the negotiations – not only beating about the bush,” he said.
He applauded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts at securing international aid and support to defend his country from Russia’s all-out military assault that began in February.
But Mr. Tseng said Taiwan wants to ensure its tensions with China never get to that point.
Taiwanese are trying to consolidate Western support for Taiwan now – not after a war. “If you want to help Taiwan: less talk and more action,” he said.
Canada “can do something really beneficial of both of us: that is FIPA. That is the message I am trying to tell” the Canadian government, he said.
Taiwan is Canada’s 13th largest trading partner and fifth largest in Asia. It has agreements similar to a FIPA with New Zealand and Singapore, among others.
It’s a relatively progressive country in Asia. Taiwan was the first Asian jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriages. It has embarked on major reconciliation efforts with its significant Indigenous population. It has a transgender cabinet minister.
Canada has not recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state since 1970, when then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau switched diplomatic relations to the communist-led People’s Republic of China.
Mr. Tseng said the Chinese government takes any opportunity to complain to Ottawa if it determines that the Canadian government is talking to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada, the unofficial embassy for Taiwan in Ottawa.