Despite repeated rebuffs from the Cambodian government, Taiwan is not giving up on its efforts to re-establish a trade and representative office in Cambodia.
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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, according to a report this week by Taiwan News, will continue to seek the Cambodian government’s approval for such office.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou was quoted as saying in the report that the self-ruled island will continue to negotiate with Cambodian leaders on setting up a representative office and that the Kingdom is targeted by Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy.
The New Southbound Policy, first unveiled in 2016, is an initiative that seeks to strengthen Taiwan’s relationship with 18 countries in Southeast Asia, Australasia and South Asia. In addition to Cambodia, other countries in the region that are part of the policy are Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Frederic Chan, chief investment officer at WS Asia Pacific, said it is a good thing for Cambodia to be included in the New Southbound Policy. He further said that setting up a Taiwanese trade office will benefit both countries.
“It is good news that the Kingdom is one of the target countries of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy. The other positive thing is that the Taiwanese government is working with Cambodian leaders to find possible solutions,” he said.
“Taiwan is a good partner that can invest in every field, from SMEs to large projects,” he added.
Despite being one of the biggest investors in the Kingdom, Taiwan does not have a representative office in the Kingdom since 1997.
That year, the government – controlled by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – shut down the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) over perceived support for a rival party.
In 2014, there were attempts to re-open the Taiwanese trade office, but those efforts were unsuccessful mainly because of the refusal of Prime Minister Hun Sen to back the move. The Prime Minister explained at that time that having such an office will violate the Kingdom’s adherence to the One-China policy.
The Taiwanese ministry’s latest pronouncement was a response to complaints from many Taiwanese businesspeople in Cambodia, who say the lack of the office is a major inconvenience.
According to the same Taiwan News report, Taiwanese businesspeople bitterly complained to Lee Chia-fen, wife of Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, during a meeting in Phnom Penh on Monday that not having the office makes it extremely difficult and time-consuming for them to have their documents authenticated or verified for business purposes.
Taiwanese businesspeople have to go to the TECO office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to have their documents verified.
The TECO office in Vietnam has been assigned to handle any paperwork, including passport renewals and document verification, for Taiwanese nationals in Cambodia.
According to a recent Forbes report, Taiwanese companies invested $171 million in Cambodia in 2017. In 2018, Taiwanese investments rose to $181 million. Taiwanese companies are most active in the garment and manufacturing sectors.