New U.K. rep to Taiwan vows to advance bilateral ties

Taipei-- The United Kingdom's new top envoy to Taiwan said Wednesday that her country will continue to promote exchanges in trade, climate change, science and innovation, as well as people-to-people links, based on strong existing bilateral ties.

Catherine Nettleton, head of the British Office, said 2017 is the year the U.K. will begin the process to leave the European Union, stressing that the decision to do so was not about turning inward but rather becoming even more engaged in global trade. The office represents the U.K's interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.

On trade relations with Taiwan, she said during a luncheon with the media that the U.K. will continue to promote bilateral trade, especially in areas of sustainable rail and renewable energy projects, digital economy and financial services, as well as seek more investment from Taiwan.

U.K-Taiwan trade has grown steadily over the years, Nettleton said, noting that the volume of bilateral trade reached nearly Pound 6 billion (US$7.5 billion) in 2014, an increase of more than 50 percent over the past decade.

"We hope this growth momentum can be sustained as our economies continue to grow," she said.

In an effort to promote bilateral trade, she said a U.K. trade mission -- including company representatives and senior representatives from two local governments -- will visit Taiwan to attend the Smart City Summit and Expo in February in Taipei.

Meanwhile, she said the U.K. looks forward to sharing its experience in reducing carbon emissions and developing renewable energy sources, as Taiwan seeks to reduce carbon emissions to 50 percent of the 2005 level by 2050.

Noting the Taiwan government's plans to develop key industries, Nettleton said there are opportunities for bilateral cooperation in such areas as clean energy, future manufacturing and life sciences.

Her remarks came one day after a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (???), during which Tsai said Taiwan has launched a series of initiatives to promote emerging economic sectors and looks forward to cooperating with the U.K. in those areas.

Taiwan has implemented several programs aimed at boosting development in the Internet of Things (IoT), biotechnology, medicine, green energy, smart machinery, the defense industry, agriculture and the circular economy, and those areas offer opportunities for Taiwan and the U.K. to work together, Tsai said.

During Wednesday's press event, Nettleton also expressed hope for closer people-to-people exchanges between Taiwan and the U.K.

In addition to looking forward to seeing more Taiwanese visitors in the U.K., she noted that a large group of young British athletes will visit Taipei for the University Games, which takes place in August.

More than 150 British athletes, including Olympic gold medal winners, will compete in the Taipei Universiade, she said, adding that they will be joined by family members, friends and spectators.

"This will be a wonderful occasion for them to get to experience the warmth of Taiwan -- in spirit and climate," she said, adding that her office will take the opportunity to build sporting links between Taiwan and the U.K. through a new "SPORT is GREAT" campaign.

Nettleton succeeded Chris Wood in December as head of the British Office.

The career diplomat's most recent post was as director of protocol at the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her previous postings include appointments as the U.K.'s ambassador to Peru and Venezuela, as well as stints in London, China and Mexico.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel