Netherlands representative office thanks Taiwan for mask donations

Representative Guy Wittich/ Photo courtesy of the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Netherlands Trade and Investment Office on Monday thanked Taiwan for its pledged donation of surgical face masks, saying that “working together is the only way we’ll get through” the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with CNA, Representative Guy Wittich said Taiwan’s April 1 announcement that it will donate 10 million masks to international partners, including 5.6 million to European Union member states, came as a surprise, after he was unable to arrange an emergency shipment of masks requested by the Utrecht city government.

I “asked MOFA (Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) whether they know any suppliers of masks and whether it’s possible that Taiwan waives the export ban,” Wittich said, referring to the government’s Jan. 23 move to reserve all face mask production for domestic use.

“After some time, I gave up sending formal requests, so I was really surprised to know about the donation,” he said.

According to Wittich , MOFA is currently coordinating with the Dutch Ministry of Health, and the masks will be shipped “very soon”.

Relative to its population of 17 million, the Netherlands is suffering a widespread outbreak of COVID-19, with 19,000 recorded cases and 1,867 deaths from the disease as of Tuesday.

In addition to their ties in commerce and scientific research, the Netherlands and Taiwan have helped each other in times of need, Wittich said, citing Dutch assistance to Taiwan after the 2015 explosion at the Formosa Fun Coast amusement park in New Taipei City.

At that time, 50 burn victims from the disaster were treated with skin donations made by the Netherlands-based Euro Skin Bank, Wittich said.

With the Netherlands now facing a large-scale outbreak, Wittich said he hopes Taiwan can return the assistance to help his country address the medical supply shortages it is facing, and that the two sides can step up joint research on vaccines, medicines and medical equipment.

According to Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the Netherlands was the largest foreign direct investor in Taiwan for the period 1952-2019, with cumulative investments totaling US$35.4 billion (NT$1.07 trillion), accounting for around 20 percent of total foreign investment.

In 2019, the Netherlands accounted for US$2.3 billion — or 20.5 percent — of foreign investment in Taiwan, ranking second behind the British Overseas Territories, according to the MOEA.