REFILE-Foxconn founder asks Taiwan to allow vaccine talks with Chinese company
(Correction to delete the superfluous word “agency” in paragraph 6)
TAIPEI, June 18 (Reuters) – Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Foxconn in Taiwan, on Friday asked the government for permission to negotiate with a Chinese company the purchase of BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccines to address the shortage of vaccines on the island.
The Taiwanese government’s own deal with BioNTech collapsed earlier this year – an issue Taiwan blamed on pressure from Beijing.
China denied the accusation, saying Taiwan is free to obtain the vaccines through Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd, which has a contract with BioNTech to sell the vaccines in Greater China, including Taiwan.
Taiwan government says it only has and will deal with BioNTech in Germany and does not trust vaccines from China, but is also happy to facilitate the proposed purchase of Gou on condition that he can prove that BioNTech has vaccines that he is willing to sell in Taiwan.
In an open letter to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Gou presented his proposals to the government.
“Accept our donation contract and engage in discussions on the substantive details, and also accept our contract structure scheme proposal for supply from German BioNTech (Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical as agent), manufactured and shipped from Germany, ”he said.
Gou, who is keen to donate the vaccine to the Taiwanese government through his charity, said he wanted to meet with Tsai to discuss the proposal and that he had “absolutely no political or business intentions in this matter.” .
The presidential office said Tsai was always happy to speak with Gou.
“We hope the government and the private sector will work together to get more vaccines for Taiwan,” spokesman Xavier Chang said.
But a senior government official told Reuters he was still waiting for Gou to obtain “delivery assurance from the original manufacturer” to confirm he had vaccines and could supply them. Gou has yet to provide this, the official said.
Gou said that by publicizing the purchase and donation internationally, the government need not worry about the issue of “fake” vaccines.
Only about 5% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one injection, but the government has millions of doses on order that have been delayed by global shortages and it has been pressured to get more so as national cases increase.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Wednesday that he believed Gou was working hard to get the vaccines, but most of the big vaccine companies only deal with countries.
Neither BioNTech nor Fosun immediately responded to a request for comment. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)