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Far East

Volume 253: debated on Wednesday 1 February 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current state of relationships with countries in the far east.

Our relations with the great majority of countries in the far east are excellent and we are working to enhance them further across a wide range of fields including trade, investment, education and culture. The strength of these relations is reflected in British exports to the Asia Pacific region, which rose by nearly 20 per cent. in the first 11 months of 1994 compared with the same period in 1993.

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that the Foreign Office will next year give a high priority to improving our relationship where possible with the countries known as the tiger nations in the far east? Those countries are economically very successful; they offer a great many opportunities to this country and believe in the free market and the enterprise philosophy. Will he therefore give every possible support to those countries and our relationship with them?

Yes. The Government have already reallocated resources to strengthen the commercial sections in the 11 posts in the region. New trade offices have been opened in Nagoya and Pusan and others are under consideration. Seventy-three trade-related ministerial visits to the Asian Pacific countries have been undertaken or are planned in the current financial year, many accompanied by business delegations. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the immense importance of those countries to us.

Will the Minister make a statement on the relationship between the British Government and the democratic Government of Taiwan?

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the state of our relations with Malaysia and, in particular, the prospects for further orders of defence equipment upon which many British Aerospace jobs in Lancashire depend?

Our relations with Malaysia are good. The Malaysian Government made it clear that they regard last year's problems as a thing of the past. Our exports to Malaysia continue to grow strongly and in 1994 seem likely to have increased by some 40 per cent. over the previous year. I anticipate that the forthcoming year will be good as well.

May I refer to the terse response concerning Taiwan given earlier? Is it not time that we started to take the lead as a nation to bring Taiwan, as a people and as a nation, into the democratic community and into the United Nations, in which it can at least contribute in comparison to other member countries that do not pay their way?

Since 1972, this country has recognised the People's Republic of China as the sole representative of China at the United Nations. The claims of Taiwan are not so recognised.