Taiwan opens up another office in Italy. On Monday, as anticipated, officials inaugurated the Taipei Representative Office in Milan – the second in the nation. Director-General Riccardo Tsan-Nan Lin presided over the ceremony, which local and national Italian politicians attended. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu– who had visited Milan in June – brought his greetings through a video message in which he emphasised the importance of relations with Italy.
- As it flanks the Taiwan Trade Centre in Milan, founded in 1970 and managed by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, the new Representative Office embodies the growing ties between the two countries.
- It will facilitate closer trade and economic ties with Northern Italy and offer consular and emergency services to Taiwanese expatriates living and working in eight regions.
Ongoing rapprochement. This was just the latest step in a long list of events that show how Rome and Taipei are growing closer. In July, Italy’s civil air traffic manager ENAV signed a cooperation deal with Taiwan’s air navigation service provider ANWS. A new Milan-Taipei air route (operated by Taiwan’s Eva Airways) was opened in the weeks prior, and the Rome-Taipei flight was also resumed (via Taiwan’s national airline, China Airlines).
It’s not just air and diplomacy (and chips). As per the One China Policy, by which countries that have relations with Beijing recognise the island of Taiwan as an “inalienable part of China,” the new office carries the name of Taipei. However, such commercial and consular developments compound Rome’s efforts to involve Taipei in the United Nations system and other international forums.
- Minister Wu effectively summarised the overall objective in an interview with Politico, where he suggested thinking about “a broader picture of better relations with Taiwan, economic or otherwise,” going beyond semiconductor-related ties.
- It’s about allowing the democratically and independently governed island – which the Chinese Communist Party claims as its own – to increase its international recognition: the stronger the international relations, the harder it is for Beijing to make moves to annex Taiwan.
- For Italy, it’s also a further step away from China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as the Meloni government has decided to relaunch its strategic partnership with China rather than renew the MoU that brought it into Beijing’s influence project.
Paolo Formentini’s take. Speaking to our sister website, the Deputy Chairman of the Lower House’s Foreign Affairs Committee and promoter of the Standing Committee on Foreign Policy for the Indo-Pacific said he was “honoured” that Minister Wu mentioned Rome’s Indo-Pacific strategy. He believes the opening of the Representative Office in Italy’s economic heartland is a “historical” event and a harbinger of several potential cooperations.
- “Rome and Taipei can cooperate on an axis that goes from the Indo-Pacific to the enlarged Mediterranean,” he added, noting the economic ties must go beyond chips and into “a wide range of industrial, economic, financial and commercial sectors.”
- Strategically speaking, Taiwan’s Africa Plan and Italy’s Mattei Plan (to be announced in early 2024) may complement each other and create spaces for mutual cooperation in the Global South, suggested the MP.
- Renewing Rome’s call to include Taipei in the United Nations’s mechanisms and structures, Mr Formentini signed off by quipping: “More Taiwan in Italy, more Italy in Taiwan.”