Ambassador Tsai, 2023 brought about many moments of contact between Italy and Taiwan: what balance can we make of this year? What strengths have emerged in the Rome-Taipei relationship? What should we predict for next year?
- High-level visits from both governments. Taiwan’s Ministerial level officials have come to visit Italy this year, and the Italian’s various high ranked officials have visited Taiwan this year as well. In terms of exchanges of personnel between the two governments, we can say we have done well this year.
- Support from the Italian Parliament. The consolidated friendship of many Italian MPs in the Taiwan-Italy Inter-Parliamentary Amity Association, both through institutional visits to Taiwan and through support for Taiwan, such as to request the Italian government openly support for participation in international bodies such as the UN, WHO, INTERPOL, UNFCCC: on these occasions, many members of the Italian Parliament in the Association express themselves strongly in support of Taiwan to bid the meaningful participation in the above-mentioned international organisations.
- Diplomacy and regional cooperation. The Italian Government has clarified its position to maintain its stability and peace on the Taiwan Strait and we appreciate it very much. We share the same positions on many international issues, such as the concerns on the humanitarian issues on the current Russian-Ukraine war and the Israel-Palestine conflict, and hope the disputes can be solved in a peaceful way. We also appreciated the Italian efforts for the involvement of Taiwan in international initiatives such as the latest COP 28.
- Opening of the new office in Milan. Taiwan’s consular office opened in Milan [in October 2023]. It is tasked with promoting relations with seven northern regions as well as simplifying consular procedures for all those who live in Northern Italy and who wish to travel to Taiwan for various reasons (study, work, etc.)
- Capacity building. This year a cooperation was developed with the Italian Government to send 28 Italian students and researchers to Taiwan with the aim of participating in two intensive training programs in the semiconductor sector (one in August and one in December); an experience that we wish to repeat in 2024 and in the years to come.
- Economic cooperation. Italy positions itself as Taiwan’s third commercial partner. The volume of trade between the two countries this year reached a record figure of $6.2 billion. In 2024, we hope this figure can get closer to Germany’s $10 billion – it’s Taiwan’s first commercial partner in the EU. We hope our Office in Milan can also play a role in promoting bilateral business.
- Technological cooperation. Besides cooperation in the semiconductor sector, I think Taiwan and Italy can still strengthen their cooperation in the following sectors: green or renewable energy (solar energy, wind power, etc.), electric vehicles, textiles, machinery and agriculture.
- Cultural exchanges. This year we also have had many cultural exchanges, such as organising or participating in different art exhibitions. In 2024, we will launch a Taiwan-Italy bilateral dance residency program, and other programs, to further enrich the bilateral cultural exchanges.
Why is opening Mandarin schools in Italy and other European countries important?
Learning Mandarin is essential these days. It is a language spoken by a large part of the world’s population and affects a huge portion of the international economy. Language is also a vehicle of culture and helps to get closer to distant worlds and societies. The Mandarin schools that we wish to open in Italy and Europe also have this objective. The Chinese language is spoken in Taiwan, as in China, but when it comes to writing, we use traditional characters instead of simplified, which preserve the historical and millenary Chinese heritage.
What investment sectors could involve the interests of Italy and Taiwan? What is there besides the fundamental semiconductor sector?
Obviously the semiconductor sector is the main one, thanks to the advanced technologies present in Taiwan and the numerous Taiwanese investments in Italy and other countries. In any case, there are many sectors where it is possible to deepen if not actually establish cooperation between Italy and Taiwan. I am thinking for example of the green or renewable energy sector, or the automotive sector, with particular attention to electric vehicles; also, in textiles, in the production of machinery or in agriculture, where cooperation already exists, with Taiwanese companies investing in Italy.
2024 will be a pivotal moment for the future of Taiwanese democracy: what may we expect from the January elections?
Taiwan is a mature democracy. Since direct elections and universal suffrage were established in the 1990s, several Presidents elected by the people of Taiwan have followed one another, with a balanced alternation of governing parties. Even in the next elections, therefore, I am sure that Taiwan will once again show the world its openness, its freedom and its transparency.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, I can also say that once again Taiwan will seek to protect its freedom and identity, and will reiterate its support for maintaining the Status Quo, peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait. For the new administration after the elections, I’m sure that Taiwan will remain calm and resilient when facing China’s threat, but before that, I’m sure the new Administration will put all its efforts to seek for dialogues with China, and try all the possible methods to maintain peace on Taiwan Strait, and will continue to work with democratic countries to safeguard peace in the Indo-Pacific area.
Image: @Taiwan in Italia