“Strengthening Taiwan's official or government relationship with Hungary is one of my priorities.” That is according to the Representative of Taiwan to Hungary, Ambassador Shih-Chung Liu who also tells Diplomacy&Trade about strengthening bilateral economic and cultural relations as well presenting Taiwan to Hungarians – sometimes with unusual methods.
The first office representing Taiwan in Budapest was the Taipei Trade Office established in 1990. In fact, it was the first official representative office of Taiwan in the Central and Eastern European region. In 1995, the office started operating under a new name, Taipei Representative Office, Budapest, Hungary. “We provide consular services for Hungarians visiting Taiwan and Taiwanese citizens living in Hungary, and we aim to promote Taiwan-Hungary bilateral relationships and mutual understanding in the fields of politics, economy, academy, media and culture. Apart from Hungary, we also cover Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro,” Ambassador Liu, the first politically appointed Taiwan Representative to Hungary highlights.
Strengthening economic relations
Regarding the main characteristics of business relations between Taiwan and Hungary, the Ambassador emphasizes that Taiwanese businesses have invested about USD 1.37 billion in Hungary, which ranks 2nd after the investments in the Netherlands among the 27 EU member countries. Most Taiwanese companies in Hungary are big multinationals, including the world- renowned EMS factory Foxconn, bike manufacturer Giant and electronic components manufacturers Sinbon and Yaego. “Given Taiwan government’s recent announcement of ‘Go Europe’, I believe there is still a lot of room for growth in the Central and Eastern European countries.”
Bilateral trade between Taiwan and Hungary reached historical high in 2021. Taiwanese customs statistics indicate that bilateral trade amounted to USD 1.1 billion, an increase of 20% compared with 2020 and 2.74 times higher than in 2009. Taiwanese exports to Hungary reached USD 727 million, an increase of 20%, while imports from Hungary were USD 397 million, also an increase of 20%. “Our bilateral trade focuses on transport equipment, ICT products, and electrical machinery. More projects are undergoing between our office and the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA),” he adds.
Under Taiwan government’s new policy of ‘Go Europe’, more Taiwanese companies are having their eyes on the CEE markets. “The increasing cost of doing business in China, the U.S.-China trade war and the pandemic have triggered a realignment of global supply chain. Taiwanese companies are searching for new alternative markets for investment. With its more attractive investment incentives, higher quality of workers and lower corporate tax, I believe Hungary will become an essential target of Taiwanese companies,” Ambassador Liu explains.
A reliable and constructive partner in the world
As for Taiwanese-Hungarian political relations, Ambassador Liu says “it takes two to tango. With its democratic achievements, economic power and good governance, more and more countries have seen Taiwan not only a trustworthy partner, but also a valuable asset in the international society. The United States has teamed up with Japan, Australia and many EU countries to work with Taiwan in tackling the pandemic, stabilizing global supply chain, sanctioning against Russia on the Ukrainian crisis, as well as maintaining peace and security across the Taiwan Strait. The European Parliament has adopted a political document to forge closer political relations with Taiwan. The British government publicly called on NATO to ensure Taiwan’s self-defense capability. More European countries’ parliaments have openly supported cooperation with Taiwan and endorsed Taiwan’s meaningful participation in major international organizations such as the World Health Organization. I see no reason why Hungary should not treat Taiwan as a reliable and constructive partner.”
One of the tasks of the Representative Office is to bring people in Taiwan and Hungary closer and have more Hungarian people to get to know more about Taiwan. As he notes, “Taiwan has a fascinating culture, delicious food, a robust economy and the best quality of education. One and a half years ago, we signed with a scholarship MOU with our counterpart in the Hungarian government.” Thus, every year, Taiwan provides 30 scholarships to Hungarian students while the Hungarian side provides 20 scholarships for Taiwanese students to come to Hungary. But, there is more. “I myself love to cook. My office came up with a plan called ‘Dine with Chef Ambassador’ to promote Taiwanese food culture. I invite politicians and celebrities to my residence and I cook Taiwanese food for them. We team up with local museums to promote Taiwanese delicacies. We work with the Taiwanese firm Giant Bicycle in Gyöngyös, to promote not only Taiwan as a brand, but also a greener lifestyle. We visit Hungarian universities to give speech on Taiwan’s international presence, and there’s also an annual Taiwanese documentary film festival ‘Taiwan Doc’. In addition, we work with the Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning in Budapest to invite Hungarian people to learn Mandarin and Taiwanese culture,” he stresses.
In terms of humanitarian aid, Taiwan recently donated USD 1.5 million to the Hungarian government-designated Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) to help relocating and helping Ukrainian refugees. “Taiwan is willing and capable to contribute to the international community, and will always be a reliable partner,” the Ambassador concludes.
Taiwan – not just semiconductors
- Taiwan plays pivotal roles in global semiconductor supply chain. Taiwanese semiconductor and chip producers hold 65% share of world markets. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is the world’s leading cutting-edge and advanced chip-making company. The U.S., Japan and some European Union countries all tried to attract TSMC to launch new investments. In the realm of global semiconductor industry and geo-strategic politics, Taiwan and TSMC are more than just ‘key players’ but potential ‘game-changers’.
- Taiwan is a full-fledged liberal democracy in Asia and a beacon of democracy especially for Hong Kong. Taiwan is pioneering in various human-right related aspects including gender equality and same-sex marriage. Taiwan is also the powerhouse of creative industries such as music, theater, film making and pop culture, all thanks to the freedom of speech that creators enjoy in Taiwan.
- The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2021 ranked Taiwan as the eighth strongest democracy in the world, the only Asian country among top ten.
- Taiwan’s successful management of the new coronavirus epidemic has won world-wide praise. Vaccination rate (2nd dose) is over 80%. In the early phase of the pandemic, Taiwan has donated numerous medical equipment to many countries, including Hungary and City of Budapest.
- Taiwan has long been a significant trader and manufacturer. The World Trade statistics Review 2021 indicates Taiwan is the 15th trading country in 2020. Taiwan is also the 21st largest economy in the world. Taiwan is geographically small, but economically big!
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