Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and honourable members.
It is my great pleasure to be here representing the University of Alberta, the China Institute, where I'm the Director and Professor of Political Science.
In an earlier life I served as Executive Director of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei and later as Director General for East Asia, but my comments today are as a private citizen.
I can take questions in both official languages.
Since establishment of relations on October 13, 1970, between Canada and PRC, it's not possible for Canada to sign formal international agreements with Taiwan. However, under that formula of those negotiations, which concluded in 1970, there was space retained for commercial and people-to-people contacts. Given that Taiwan has developed subsequently into a very dynamic economy, one of our premier economic partners in Asia, it befits us to do what we can to facilitate that relationship. Others I've heard today, including a former colleague from EDC, have spoken in detail of those arrangements and of some of the facilities that may offer.
One can be reminded it was only in 2014 that our total trade with Taiwan was surpassed by India. The population of India is 50 times the size of Taiwan. So this is a substantive trading partner. It is of relevance to this agreement as well that the number of citizens living in each jurisdiction is also significant. Some 50,000 Canadian citizens live in Taiwan. The Government of Canada estimates that some 200,000 Taiwanese are living in Canada. That's something quite unique developing on that far side of the Pacific, with over 350,000 in Hong Kong, perhaps; and I think at least 100,000 in China, perhaps. We're now getting a situation where those human contacts are very large, notwithstanding the distance.
Of course, on the case of double taxation, Taiwan has already included some 30—I'm not going to read them—arrangements on double taxation with states including Japan, Singapore, Australia, Belgium, France, Netherlands, the U.K., and others. There also have been, and this began in 1979, over 20 arrangements of various sorts between Canada and Taiwan. Most of these are economic and commercial to bring order, I believe, to this substantive trade.
I recall working in government previously when there was a great gap in the fisheries arrangement in the Pacific. All the internationally recognized states subscribed to the international covenants on fishing, and one in particular, drift-net fishing. Because Taiwan is not a state, they could not join the relevant organization, and there's a great gaping hole there, which we along with others managed to fill through informal relationships. Taiwan is too big and too important to simply leave aside. It leaves a great gap, either with our arrangements in that place or in the international arrangements between states and in the international community.
Beijing, in my opinion, sometimes more and sometimes less has shown considerable tolerance and maturity with regard to foreign contacts with Taiwan where these arrangements do not imply the establishment of state-to-state relations with Taiwan. Therein is that question you posed to one of the previous witnesses, why the term “arrangement” and not “agreement”, which generally carries with it an implication of recognition between states.
This “space” is not unlimited, but it has allowed Canada to promote a substantive interest with Taiwan while observing limits on the form of such contacts. In my view, that's the trick: how to get the substance in dealing with Taiwan without violating the form to the point where it creates an impediment in our relations with the PRC.
The tenor of the relationship between Beijing and Taipei is a factor as well. The better those two are getting along, the more space there's been traditionally, the less the Chinese tend to be hyper-sensitive. When those two are not getting along—I fear we're sliding into another one of those phases—the tolerance tends to decline again.
Given the magnitude of Canadian interest in that relationship with an emerging superpower that is the PRC, and the parallel importance of maintaining contacts with the lively democracy that has emerged in Taiwan, both caution and perseverance are warranted.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.