CORONAVIRUS/Germany says Taiwan-BioNTech negotiations out of its hands
Taipei, June 2 (CNA) Germany's top envoy to Taiwan on Wednesday said whether Taiwan and Germany's BioNTech can reach a deal on COVID-19 vaccines is out of the hands of his government, even if the government is doing its best to facilitate an agreement.
"Trust me when I said that the German government, in particular Economy Minister (Peter) Altmaier himself, has made tremendous efforts, in serving as a bridge in the negotiations between Taiwan and BioNTech over the issue," Thomas Prinz, director general of German Institute Taipei said in a Facebook post.
The institute serves as Germany's de facto embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
The German government, however, has no control over the terms of a potential contract as only the parties of the potential contract have a say over the issue, Prinz said.
The diplomat said he had complete confidence in Taiwan's containment of the latest domestic coronavirus outbreak over the past weeks, and hoped that more vaccines from different brands, including BioNTech, can be imported quickly to help lower infection rates.
The Facebook post came after Taiwan's health minister, Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), said late last month that the two sides' inability to finalize a contract was because of "something outside of the contract," referring to pressure from China on BioNTech.
During a May 27 press briefing, Chen said the government had signed and sent back a "final contract" agreed with BioNTech after months of negotiations, and the two sides were on the verge of issuing a press release on Jan. 8 to make the deal public.
But hours later BioNTech sent a letter recommending that the Taiwan side change the phrase "our country" in the Chinese version of the press release to "Taiwan," Chen said.
The government agreed to the request later the same day and replied. A week later, however, Chen said his government was informed by BioNTech that the deal would be delayed due to a "re-evaluation of global vaccine supply and adjusted timelines."
"There's no problem within the contract. The problem was something outside of the contract," he said, without elaborating.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) later pointed the finger at the Chinese government, accusing Beijing of intervening in the potential deal and getting BioNTech to hesitate in finalizing the deal with Taipei. She also did not offer any other details.
Previously asked to comment on the issue, BioNTech told CNA in an email that it would not comment on "potential or ongoing discussions to provide vaccine doses."
"It goes without saying that it is BioNTech's goal to provide access to our vaccine to as many people worldwide as possible," it said.
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