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Taiwan: BioNTech deal collapsed after firm asked for 'country' to be stricken from announcement

Taiwan: BioNTech deal collapsed after firm asked for 'country' to be stricken from announcement
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A deal for the German company BioNTech to sell the COVID-19 vaccines it makes in collaboration with Pfizer to Taiwan fell apart in January after BioNTech officials requested that any reference to Taiwan as an independent country be removed from the announcement, Taiwan's health minister said Thursday.

Reuters reported that Chen Shih-chung made the claim at a daily news briefing, explaining that the government had offered to change references from "our country" to "Taiwan" in the official Chinese-language announcement of the sale, but had been rebuffed.

"BioNTech suddenly sent a letter, saying they strongly recommend us to change the word 'our country' in the Chinese version of the press release," Chen told reporters.

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A week later, after the government agreed to edit the wording, BioNTech canceled the deal, citing a "revaluation of global vaccine supply and adjusted timelines" for production.

"It's crystal clear to me that the contract was finalized," Chen said, adding that "the problem was something outside of the contract," according to Reuters.

BioNTech declined to comment to Reuters, and did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill.

The State Department, which is engaged in an ongoing war of words with Beijing over the issue of Taiwanese sovereignty, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the situation.

China has increasingly been placing pressure on western entities including companies, media figures and others to recognize Taiwan as part of China's territory, a long-held claim by Beijing despite Taiwan's own claims of self-governance.

The U.S. has maintained support for Taiwan's government and conducted freedom of movement naval exercises around the island in recent months, but stopped short of declaring direct military support for the island in the event of a Chinese military takeover.