President Ma Ying-jeou met on the morning of July 28 with a delegation of members of the British Parliament. In addition to extending a warm welcome to the visitors on behalf of the government and people of the ROC and mentioning the various cooperative projects between Taiwan and the UK, the president also expressed hope that the bilateral friendship will be further deepened and cooperative ties broadened.
In remarks, President Ma first commented that Members of Parliament Kerry McCarthy, James Arbuthnot, Mark Hendrick, and Tracey Crouch were making their first visits to Taiwan. The other members of the delegation had previously traveled to Taiwan, and the president expressed confidence that they already have quite a thorough understanding of the situation here.
President Ma remarked that the UK is a pioneer in freedom and democracy. Next year will mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, he said, adding that the formulation of this document was a historic milestone. Moreover, he noted, it is one of the most important documents in the world for contemporary democratic politics.
President Ma further stated that while the ROC lost its seat at the United Nations (UN) in 1971 and has since been unable to take part in UN activities, it still has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These two covenants, he said, were ratified here in 2009, the year after he took office, and then their content was incorporated into domestic law. This, the president stated, shows that the ROC stands together with other democratic nations in its commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
As for relations between Taiwan and the UK, President Ma remarked, last year the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on extradition, which is helping the two nations to combat crime. In addition, he said, the UK was the first major nation in the West to grant visa-free treatment to ROC nationals, and this has spurred a large increase in travel by ROC nationals to the UK for tourism, study, and business. Consequently, the UK is now the second largest destination for students from Taiwan studying overseas, behind only the United States.
Commenting on economic, trade, and investment ties, the president remarked that the UK is Taiwan's third largest trading partner in Europe, with bilateral trade last year reaching approximately 3.6 billion pounds, and that the value of the UK's exports to Taiwan rose by 7.8% last year. In addition, as of the end of 2013, investment from Taiwan in the UK accounted for nearly one-fifth of all of Taiwan's investments in Europe, he said, adding that in the first quarter of this year, over half of Taiwan's external investment was in the UK.
The president explained that Taiwan is actively seeking to participate in regional economic integration, and that it hopes the UK will support the negotiation and signing of an economic cooperation agreement between the ROC and the European Union (EU), which would further enhance economic and trade ties between Taiwan and the UK.
President Ma then discussed the situation in East Asia. He told the visitors that he closely studied the joint development of oil fields in the North Sea by the UK and neighboring countries, which made Brent Crude one of the best known petroleum trading classifications in the world. It was with this in mind, said the president, that in August 2012 he floated the East China Sea Peace Initiative, which emphasizes that "although sovereignty over national territory cannot be compromised, natural resources can be shared," and seeks to achieve the objectives of conflict reduction and sharing of resources.
The president also mentioned that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II. He stated that countries throughout the world are holding a variety of commemorative events, and Queen Elizabeth II also visited France to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. President Ma remarked that the ROC and British troops fought shoulder to shoulder during World War II in Burma, and that retired British Army Captain Gerald Fitzpatrick fought on the battlefields there. He documented his experiences in a book, in which he praised the bravery exhibited by ROC troops, the president said.
President Ma further noted that Emma Mary Soames, the granddaughter of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, visited Taiwan last year to take part in activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration. The declaration demanded that Japan return territory that it had stolen from China, including Manchuria, Taiwan, and the Penghu Islands (Pescadores). In fact, the president said, the preliminary draft of the declaration had not included the word "Pescadores," but former Prime Minister Churchill made a note on the document to include it. This carried enormous significance for the ROC, President Ma stated.
The president also mentioned that the government here next year intends to hold a major celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the ROC's victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan. In this war to defend the dignity of the Chinese people, over 3.2 million ROC troops lost their lives, while over 20 million civilians died or were injured. President Ma commented that the ROC suffered among the most severe losses of World War II.
Also in the delegation were All-Party Parliamentary British-Taiwanese Group Vice-Chair Brian Donohoe, and MPs John Whittingdale, Ian Davidson, David Hamilton, and Jim Hood.