A reference by the Canada Border Services Agency to “Chinese Taipei” rather than Taiwan in a press release is raising questions about why it seems some Canadian departments use different naming standards in official communications.
In a press release issued Thursday afternoon, the CBSA announced it had launched an investigation into whether certain types of steel products are being dumped on the Canadian market by “China, Chinese Taipei, India and South Korea.”
While the concerns over accusations of dumping are not new, calling Taiwan by the name China has been aggressively pushing for other countries and businesses to adopt over recent years is inconsistent with how the government has approached the issue in the past and should be changed, said one former Canadian ambassador to China.
“There’s no need to use it in the context that border service folks are using it,” said David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China and former executive director of the Canadian Trade Office based in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.
“When it’s an economic issue, using Taiwan is absolutely appropriate and changing it to ‘Chinese Taipei’ would be a step in the wrong direction.”
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The name “Chinese Taipei” is a term agreed upon by China and Taiwan and usually seen when Taiwan participates in international activities such as the Olympic games.
It is not, however, generally used in trade or diplomatic descriptions, Mulroney said.
A spokesperson for the CBSA, however, said use of the term fits with World Trade Organization guidelines and was not a mistake.
“In trade-related media releases, the Canada Border Services Agency refers to the World Trade Organization guidelines for country names,” said Barre Campbell, senior communications advisor for the agency.
“The WTO list of members includes Chinese Taipei and does not refer to Taiwan.”
A spokesperson for Global Affairs did not say explain the discrepancy between why it appears different departments and agencies use different names for the island.
Rather, they noted, “Canada’s longstanding position on this issue has not changed.”
All of the websites managed by Global Affairs Canada about trade in Taiwan, visiting or moving there, and about joint relations between Canada and Taiwan refer to the island officially known as the Republic of China as Taiwan.
A search of listings on the Global Affairs Canada website returned a total of 253 search results for “Taiwan” and just 28 for “Chinese Taipei.”
Statistics Canada also refers to the island, which China considers a renegade province, as Taiwan, Mulroney said.
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A press release from Liberal MP Bob Nault, who led a parliamentary delegation on a trip to Taiwan in January 2018, does as well.
Nault also could not be reached for comment.
The use of the term comes amid escalating aggression from China against businesses that do not cave to its demands to explicitly refer to Taiwan as Chinese territory.
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Mercedes-Benz, Zara, The Gap and Delta Air Lines are just some of the high-profile examples of brands that have apologized over cases where China complained photos or wording on products they carry did not adhere to the One China policy because they did not recognize Taiwan as part of China.
While Taiwan has elected its own governments since 1949, China asserts the island belongs to it and will one day be back under its control.
In May, Air Canada also joined the ranks of companies that have bowed to Chinese pressure.
It now lists flight destinations as heading to “Taipei, CN.,” rather than Taiwan.
The Trudeau government has repeatedly been criticized for refusing to condemn Chinese aggression and human rights in the country.
As well, efforts to explore free-trade talks with China have been met with skepticism domestically amid concerns over Chinese state-owned businesses, labour standards and its treatment of dissidents.
Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic, said calling Taiwan “Chinese Taipei” is a problem.
“We are disappointed that Justin Trudeau has acquiesced to unfair Chinese demands with respect to Taiwan,” he said.
“For decades, Canada and Taiwan have enjoyed a vibrant economic relationship, as well as close people-to-people ties. This should be maintained and respected. At a time when many other countries are calling out unfair trade, diplomatic and other practices by China, only the Trudeau Liberals appear to be turning a blind eye to these actions.”
He added, “A Conservative government will respect this relationship and the people of Taiwan while adhering to Canada’s long-standing one-China policy.”