STA, 18 November 2019 - Slovenia and Taiwan do not have diplomatic ties, but this does not mean they cannot strengthen cooperation, Vanessa Shih of the Taipei Economic and Culture Office in Austria, has told the STA in an interview. The 23-million nation provides great business opportunities for Slovenian companies, she believes.
Shih expressed regret that she has only limited access to Slovenian authorities. She has had some contact with Slovenian government representatives but not complete access to ministries and government offices and believes that the Chinese embassy in Ljubljana is the likely reason for this situation.
Vanessa Shih. Source: Wikipedia, Voice of America, public domain
China insists that Taiwan is one of its provinces and that sooner or later a unification would take place; it has not ruled out the use of force if necessary. Taipei has been losing its battle for allies with Beijing and now has diplomatic contact with only 15 countries.
Shih said that relations between Slovenia and Taiwan, which share the same values and have a similar political system, are focused above all on cooperation in economy, education, culture and tourism.
Merchandise trade is rather modest, amounting to just over US$200 million last year, with imports from Taiwan accounting for US$170 million or 0.4% of Slovenia's imports.
Slovenia exported US$36 million to Taiwan last year, which accounted for less than 0.02% of Taiwan's total imports.
"We can see that the figures are still very low, which means that there is a lot of potential in economic cooperation," she said.
Direct investments by Taiwanese companies in Slovenia are very limited as well; Shih believes that the reason for limited investments and trade of goods lies in poor mutual understanding and poor direct exchange of information.
She expressed regret that Slovenia, unlike most European countries, does not have a representative office in Taiwan.
Slovenia and Taiwan do not have a double taxation agreement either, even though Taiwan has signed such agreements with 16 EU members, said Shih, adding that lack of incentives was a problem in promotion of Taiwanese investments in Slovenia.
Cooperation between Slovenia and Taiwan is at a much higher level when it comes to education. Universities in both countries have signed a number of memoranda of understanding.
"Our office in Vienna provides grants for studying and researching in Taiwan," said Shih, adding that an increasing number of Slovenians are studying in Taiwan.
She also pointed out that the number of Taiwanese tourists in Slovenia was increasing, including due to the abolishment of visas for Taiwanese citizens in the Schengen zone.
If a Slovenian wants to travel to Taiwan for a longer period of time, they must apply for a visa at the Taiwanese representation, not at the Chinese embassy, she said, adding that this was proof that Taiwan is a sovereign country.