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Taiwan wants to open trade office

Garment workers clean and fold items of clothing at a Taiwanese garment factory
Garment workers clean and fold items of clothing at a Taiwanese garment factory last year in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district. Vireak Mai

Taiwan wants to open trade office

A Taiwanese trade representative has reiterated the need to set up a trade office in Cambodia, but the government said yesterday that its stance on the one-China policy remains intact and a Taiwanese-representative office is not allowed in the Kingdom.

John Tang, director of the Taiwan Trade Center in Vietnam, said a trade office would increase investor confidence in Taiwan, thereby encouraging them to invest in Cambodia, which is not related to the Taiwanese government’s ongoing dispute with China.

“But this is a terrible misunderstanding between the Cambodian government and us,” said Tang. “Our mission is to increase trade between Cambodia and Taiwan. Nothing to do with politics.”

Tang was speaking on the sidelines of a trade delegation meeting from Taiwan, comprising 60 businesses and jointly hosted by the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, which is looking to expand business interests in the Kingdom beyond the $750 million trade achieved with Taiwan last year.

According to the Taiwanese media, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) announced the opening of an office in Phnom Penh last July to facilitate business interactions with Cambodia. But the proposal was nixed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said Taiwan was only a province of China and that no representative office from there would be allowed in the Kingdom.

Tang said the lack of a political relationship between the Cambodian and Taiwanese governments and the Kingdom’s economic dependence on the Chinese make it difficult to change Hun Sen’s decision.

“Right now, the Cambodian government is so close and so dependent on China. Even though trade between our two countries is growing very fast, they still do not change their mind,” he said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said there were no restrictions on the Taiwanese engaging in business interests, but when it came to a Taiwanese trade office, there was no deviating from the Hun Sen’s directive to follow a one-China policy.

“We welcome business activity. But we must not allow anyone to polarise it. We are officially engaged with nations that are only recognised by the United Nations,” Siphan said.

China and Taiwan have been at loggerheads over the latter’s claim to establish an independent nation separate from the mainland. But proponents of the one-China policy advocate that both Taiwan and mainland China are inseparable parts of a single Chinese nation.

Siphan said that investor confidence did not depend on them using the flag of Taiwan in Cambodia and that would not be allowed.

Nuong Meng Tech, director general for the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), said he was glad that these trade missions were increasing trade and that the CCC will help setup partnerships with local companies, but that the government’s policy was not impacting Taiwanese business in Cambodia.

“I don’t think it [impact on business] is too much. If people want to invest they can come and invest,” he added.

John Yu, sales manager at San-Shen Agricultural Machinery Science and Technology and sells rice driers in Cambodia, said Taiwanese companies had little information about the Cambodian market and a trade office will help reduce the obstacles of doing business in the Kingdom.

“There is difficulty. But we have to overcome [on our own],” Yu said.

“There are business and cultural difficulties.

“We must come here [ourselves] to know this country. In Taiwan, we do not know about Cambodia. We have to increase business confidence,” he added.

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