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Foreign Policy Report, 7th Congress of the Legislative Yuan, 6th Session (October 14, 2010)

  • Date:2010-10-14
  • Data Source:Public Diplomacy Coordination Council


Honorable Chair and Members of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, Ladies and Gentlemen: good morning!

It is an honor for me to once again give a briefing on the recent undertakings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). I would like to extend my respect and appreciation to Legislative Speaker Wang, to Deputy Speaker Tseng and to all the legislators for your consistent support, valuable suggestions and involvement in parliamentary diplomacy. For instance, in July this year, Speaker Wang Jin-pyng led a delegation to the Republic of The Gambia on behalf of President Ma Ying-jeou to celebrate their 16th Revolution Day, which helped strengthen the friendship between our two countries. I would like to extend my deep respect and gratitude.

Since his inauguration, President Ma has been dedicated to promoting the “flexible diplomacy” policy. Over the past two years, this pragmatic approach has taken Taiwan in the right direction and has won broad support and recognition in the international community. More importantly, it has given us more opportunities to participate in international organizations. Flexible diplomacy has been shown to be feasible and in the best interests of our country. I would like now to report on our diplomatic work in terms of important international issues, Taiwan’s role and the concrete achievements we have made with the flexible diplomacy policy, as well as our direction in the future.

II.Important international issues and Taiwan’s role

1.Global economic situation:
The global economic recovery continued in the first half of 2010, particularly in mainland China and India where the growth rate looks most promising. Taiwan’s economy has also registered double-digit growth for two quarters in a row now, which is remarkable. Statistics show that Taiwan’s external trade for the first eight months of the year amounted to US$342.22 billion, a jump of 49.4% compared to the same period last year. The projected economic growth for this year is 8.24%. Nonetheless, the debt crisis in Europe, as well as rising unemployment and austerity measures all over the world, will see global economic growth slow in the second half of 2010 and in the coming year. The global economic growth rate is predicted to fall to between 3.5% and 4.3% in 2011.

To help Taiwan’s economy expand in the future, MOFA will continue to promote economic and trade cooperation with other major countries, work with other governmental agencies to attract foreign investment, and seek Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Taiwan’s major trade partners. This is one of the main aims of the flexible diplomacy policy.

2.Regional economic integration in East Asia
The pace of economic integration in East Asia has picked up in recent years. The FTAs that the ten ASEAN countries signed with mainland China, Japan and Korea have taken effect, one after the other. The Trilateral Cooperation Vision 2020 adopted by mainland China, Japan and Korea also makes it clear that these three countries want to have completed their joint study on creating a trilateral free trade area by 2012. Once this free trade area comes into being, it will account for 70% of Asia’s economy and 20% of the world economy, making it the third largest such area after the EU and the US.

In response to the push for economic integration in East Asia, our government has also stepped up the pace. On June 29, 2010, we signed an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, which gives us the opportunity to “link with the Asia-Pacific region and deploy globally.” Subsequently, on August 5, Singapore and Taiwan jointly announced the commencement of a study into the feasibility of signing an FTA under the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. This was an important step forward in our participation in East Asian integration. In line with government policy, MOFA will promote negotiations for FTAs with major trade partners so as to increase Taiwan’s international competitiveness and take Taiwan’s economy to new heights.

3.Competition between the US and mainland China in East Asia
After the Cheonan incident in March this year, tensions in Northeast Asia have continued to rise. Since July, mainland China has conducted several large-scale military exercises in the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea. During this same period and in the same areas, US forces have also held joint military exercises with Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. These frequent military activities underline the competition that exists between the US and mainland China in the region.

The Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait have long been two flash points in East Asia. However, since we adopted the policy of flexible diplomacy, tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased considerably. Our approach to improving cross-strait relations stands in sharp contrast to the situation in the Korean Peninsula, and serves as a model for maintaining regional peace and stability for other countries in East Asia. MOFA will continue to closely monitor and respond to developments in East Asia so as to ensure our national interests.

4.Climate change
In the past six months, extreme weather has caused devastation in many countries around the world. Climate change has become perhaps the most important issue that the international community has to address. While no targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were set during the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Copenhagen last December, countries the world over agree that they should come together to combat global warming.

While Taiwan is not a party to the UNFCCC, our government is nevertheless committed to shouldering its share of the responsibility to maintain the global environment. We sent a letter to the UNFCCC Secretariat expressing our willingness to take our place in the UNFCCC and fight global warming along with the rest of the world. We also stated our commitment to reducing GHG emissions by at least 30% relative to the Business-as-usual (BAU) benchmark before 2020.

III.Flexible diplomacy’s achievements and future direction

1.Consolidating diplomatic ties with our allies
In March 2010, President Ma went on state visits to our six allies in the Pacific – the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Palau – which helped consolidate our bilateral relations with these countries. In July, Speaker Wang of the Legislative Yuan also led a delegation as President Ma’s special envoy to participate in the July 22 celebrations for the 16th Anniversary of Revolution Day in The Gambia.

Since March, many heads of state and high-ranking officials from our allies have visited Taiwan. They include: King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Swaziland, President Anote Tong of Kiribati; President Jurelang Zedkaia of the Marshall Islands, President Fradique Bandeira Melo de Menezes of Sao Tome and Principe, Vice President Kerai Mariur of Palau, Vice President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez of Panama, Prime Minister Danny Philip of Solomon Islands, Governor-General Frank Ofagioro Kabui of Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia of Tuvalu, Prime Minister Tertius Zongo of Burkina Faso, Deputy Prime Minister Themba N. Masuku of the Kingdom of Swaziland, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega of Belize, Foreign Minister Hector Ricardo Lacognata of Paraguay, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation Bedouma Alain Yoda of Burkina Faso, Minister Lutfo Ephraim Dlamini of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Swaziland, Speaker Hilda Rosemarie Husbands-Mathurin of the House of Assembly of St. Lucia, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Cesar Ariel Oviedo Verdun of Paraguay, Speaker Elizabeth Renner of the National Assembly of The Gambia, and President Jacinto Suarez Espinoza of the Central American Parliament.

The International Cooperation and Development Act, drafted by MOFA, was adopted by the Legislative Yuan in May after three readings and promulgated by the president in June. This Act aims to provide a legal framework and oversight mechanism for our foreign aid. Hereinafter, all our foreign aid should comply with the International Cooperation and Development Act and abide by the principles of “proper goals, legal processes and effective administration.” We are looking to capitalize on our strengths in the fields of technology, trade, medical care and agriculture so as to promote bilateral cooperation projects with our allies. Our ultimate goal is to help our allies ensure the welfare of their people.

2.Promoting substantive relations with other countries

(1) Taiwan-US relations
Since President Ma took office, US government officials have on more than one occasion expressed their recognition of and support for our diplomatic and cross-strait policies. Mutual trust between high-ranking officials has been restored and our appeal for meaningful participation in international organizations has won unanimous backing from people in the US. As pointed out by US Deputy Secretary of States James Steinberg in May, the US is generally encouraged by the direction of cross-strait relations.

Important progress in Taiwan-US relations has been made in the past six months. For instance, the US House of Representatives adopted Resolution No. 266 on July 29 unanimously supporting Taiwan’s participation in ICAO. The Midwestern Legislative Conference, as well as 17 State Senates and Houses of Representatives, also adopted resolutions supporting our international participation. Furthermore, five senators and five congressmen visited Taiwan, including Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Then, in August, the US approved the sale of three arms packages to Taiwan worth US$300 million in total, which underlines its commitment to safeguarding Taiwan’s security as per the Taiwan Relations Act.

(2) Relations with Japan
In April, Taiwan and Japan signed a memorandum of understanding on strengthening exchanges and cooperation in 15 main areas, these being: economy and trade, tourism, academia, culture, technology, disaster prevention, environmental protection, energy conservation, maritime security, combating international crimes, agricultural and fishery cooperation, as well as local government and media exchanges. In the past six months, the Taipei Cultural Center was established in Tokyo. The two countries also held a Taiwan-Japan Tourism Summit and a conference on jointly cracking down on criminals, which demonstrates that substantive cooperation between our two countries has reached a new level.

In recent days, however, Taiwanese fishing boats in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands were harassed by the Japanese coastguard. MOFA immediately lodged a strong protest and re-affirmed Taiwan’s sovereignty over the islands. MOFA also emphasized that the fishing boats were operating in these waters legally and come under Taiwan’s jurisdiction. MOFA also calls on Japan to take into consideration its long-standing and mutually beneficial friendship with Taiwan when handling the Diaoyutai dispute. MOFA will continue to closely monitor related developments and, in order to protect our national interests and the rights of our fishermen, we will respond with immediate and appropriate measures.

(3) Relations with Europe
The European Parliament passed a resolution in March this year firmly supporting Taiwan’s participation as an observer in ICAO and the UNFCCC. Moreover, in response to the signing of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, released a statement in June giving credit to our endeavors. This demonstrates that the European Union recognizes and supports Taiwan’s current policy.

Exchange visits between high-level officials from Taiwan and European countries have occurred regularly. In the last six months, former President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and her husband, Dr. Imants Freibergs, as well as members of the European Parliament and parliaments of other European countries, have visited. As for Taiwan, First Lady Mei-ching Ma led the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre to take part in art festivals in Italy and Spain in June. Speaker Wang Jin-pyng also stopped in Spain on his way to visit the Republic of The Gambia in late July. And Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, Lai Shin-yuan, also traveled to Belgium in September to participate in the Asia Pacific Roundtable activities.

Taiwan has also signed the Working Arrangement between the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) in Taipei and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Cologne on Validation by CAA of Certificates Issued by EASA on Civil Aeronautical Products, Parts and Appliances, as well as an MOU on Cooperation in the Field of E-government with the Czech Republic. In addition, Ireland has agreed to recognize Taiwanese drivers’ licenses. Indeed, significant progress has been made in Taiwan’s substantive relations with European countries.

In terms of Schengen visa-free treatment, the European Commission passed an amendment bill in July that would grant visa-free treatment to Taiwan. The bill was sent to the European Parliament and the European Council of Ministers for a second review and, once the bill is passed, Taiwanese passport holders will be able to travel to 28 European countries visa-free for up to 90 days.

(4) Relations with Asia-Pacific countries
Over the past six months, substantive relations between Taiwan and other countries in the Asia Pacific have grown significantly. For instance, the Kuala Lumpur-Taipei Trade and Investment Meeting, which had been suspended for six years, was resumed. We signed an Agreement on Medical Cooperation with Vietnam and, since April, Taiwanese passport holders travelling to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and the Clark Freeport Zone in the Philippines can enjoy 14-day visa-free stays. Beginning this October, Fiji also granted Taiwanese citizens visa-free stays of up to four months, which obviously makes it easier to travel there.

(5) Direction of future work
Upholding the principle of “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people”, MOFA will continue to deepen Taiwan’s substantive exchanges and cooperation with major countries. For instance, MOFA will seek to obtain visa-free treatment from more countries, increase recognition of Taiwan’s driver’s licenses abroad, and sign agreements so that Taiwanese youths can seek employment during extended holidays overseas.

3.Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and activities
(1) International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): This year, Taiwan has continued to urge the international community to render support to Taiwan’s efforts to gain meaningful participation in UN-related agencies, in particular, observer status in ICAO and the UNFCCC. Senior officials from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies have sent letters to the ICAO Secretary General urging the organization to invite Taiwan to take part as an observer. Moreover, the European Parliament and the parliaments of Australia, the United States, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Panama, Paraguay and Nicaragua also passed resolutions or filed proposals in favor of Taiwan’s participation in ICAO. Moreover, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging the UNFCCC to accept Taiwan’s participation. The parliaments of Australia, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Nicaragua, as well as 17 US state legislatures, the Central American Parliament, Association of Pacific Island Legislatures (APIL) and the Midwestern Legislative Conference all passed resolutions in support of Taiwan’s participation in the UNFCCC.

(2) World Health Organization (WHO): This May, Taiwan once again received an invitation from the WHO Director-General to partake in the 63rd World Health Assembly. The delegation was led by Minister of Health Yaung Chih-liang. In addition, the WHO also invited Deputy Minister of Health Chang Chan-chwen to serve as one of the IHR’s epidemiologists, and updated its IHR Authorized Port List to include Taipei and Magong.

(3) World Trade Organization (WTO): This July, the WTO held a review of Taiwan’s trade policies, in which all the other members expressed positive views of Taiwan’s economic and trade performance and welcomed the signing of the ECFA.

(4) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC): Over the past six months, Taiwan has sent delegations to take part in the APEC’s ministerial meetings on the topics of trade, energy, human resources development and tourism. Furthermore, in May 2010, Taiwan hosted an APEC Business Advisory Council meeting (ABAC II) and established the APEC SME Crisis Management Center in Taipei. That August, it hosted the APEC Food Security Forum, in which all of the other APEC members actively participated.

(5) Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC): With the IATTC’s passing of the Antigua Convention, Taiwan became qualified to serve as an IATTC member. After completing all of the necessary procedures, Taiwan formally became an IATTC member on August 27 (the day the Antigua Convention entered into force).

(6) Direction of future work: MOFA will strive to take part in international organizations and activities so as to fight for Taiwan’s rights and interests. Taiwan will continue to seek participation in functional international organizations and UN-related agencies in rational and pragmatic ways in order to expand its space in the international community.

4.Serving the people
(1) Expand MOFA’s emergency services for Taiwanese citizens abroad: Since MOFA set up a 24-hour emergency hotline six months ago, it has received 16,000 calls and has offered immediate assistance on 1,500 instances to Taiwanese travelers encountering emergencies abroad. For instance, during the eruption of Volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, nearly 2,000 Taiwanese travelers were trapped at European airports. MOFA immediately directed its representative offices in Europe to contact the airport and border control authorities in hopes of helping stranded Taiwanese return home safely. Thus far, MOFA has handled more than 50 emergency rescue cases involving fishing boats, an average of 1.4 cases per week. For the convenience of Taiwanese traveling overseas, MOFA printed a card listing the emergency contact numbers of MOFA’s offices in different countries so that they can seek assistance, ask for an interpreter at customs, or report an emergency.

(2) Strengthen mechanisms and regulations to better accommodate the needs of the people: To further codify administrative operations and protect the rights of the people, this June MOFA formulated the Statute for Document Authentication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Embassies and Missions Abroad. This piece of legislation serves as the legal platform for MOFA, as well as its embassies and representative offices, to carry out document authentication. Moreover, MOFA is drafting standard procedures for handling emergencies involving Taiwanese fishing boats, which will be provided as a reference for other agencies to follow. These instructions will help upgrade the efficiency of emergency rescues and protect the safety and rights of the fishermen.

(3) Direction of future work: MOFA will continue to offer quality services, promote gradually a policy encouraging people to apply for a passport in person, amend the Enforcement Rules of the Statute Governing the Issuance of Visas in Foreign Passports and modernize its systems for issuing visas. Such actions aim to upgrade MOFA’s efficiency and strengthen border security measures.

5.Promote cultural diplomacy
(1) Promote Chinese culture: To actively promote Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics in the international arena, MOFA and the Council for Cultural Affairs has been working together to set up Taiwan Academies abroad. Moreover, MOFA has assisted Taiwan’s cultural groups to tour other countries, has invited foreign groups to perform in Taiwan, and has organized large-scale “Taiwan Day” activities, in hopes of generating more interest in Taiwan worldwide.

In celebration of the centennial of the Republic of China, MOFA plans to organize a series of activities and exhibitions, on the theme “The Republic of China (Taiwan) Shines in the World – Past, Present and Future”(中華民國活躍於世界─過去、現在及未來). These activities include three main exhibitions: Exhibition of the Republic of China’s Diplomatic archives; Love from Taiwan—Taiwan’s Voice in the World; and an exbihition charting MOFA’s services to the public. A short film titled “The Fruitful Results of Flexible Diplomacy” (活路外交成果短片) will be prepared as well.

(2) Expand youth exchanges with other countries: MOFA expanded its International Youth Ambassador Program, inviting 160 teachers and students from 13 of Taiwan’s universities to visit 21 of our diplomatic allies. In the meantime, to complement the Taiwan Scholarships, TaiwanICDF Scholarships and Scholarship Program for Central American Student Studying in Taiwan, MOFA has been formulating a new Huayu Enrichment Scholarship to attract more outstanding young students from abroad to study Mandarin in Taiwan. Moreover, MOFA also has been selecting high-caliber youths from other countries to join the International Youth and Study Tour to Taiwan, allowing young Taiwanese to interact with other youths from overseas. In April, Taiwan and Canada signed the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Youth Mobility, which entered into force in July.

(3) Direction of future work: MOFA will continue to make the best use of Taiwan’s soft power to help showcase Taiwan’s innovation, vitality and culture to the rest of the world. It will also create new opportunities for Taiwan’s young people to interact with their counterparts overseas by organizing exchange programs and signing working holiday agreements with other countries. By so doing, we hope to let the international community better understand and support Taiwan.

6.Implementing humanitarian diplomacy
In order to better contribute to the international community, the government has collaborated with the private sector when providing aid to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Pakistan, which have been hit by disasters within the last six months. This demonstrates our determination to take concrete action when humanitarian aid is needed most. The government will continue to expand its channels for engaging in cooperation with international organizations and non-governmental organizations, and combine its resources with those of the private sector, so as to maximize its humanitarian aid efforts and fulfill its international obligations.

7.Carrying out people’s diplomacy
(1) People’s diplomacy: MOFA continues to host the People’s Diplomacy Camp (全民外交研習營) and the International Etiquette Camp(國際禮儀研習營). In addition, MOFA has held an exhibition to showcase Taiwan’s assistance in Africa, Africa Festival, Middle Eastern Cultural Exhibition(中東文化展), and 2010 Focus on Hualien with New Vision (2010聚焦花蓮新視界) so as to pique the public’s interest in international exchanges. Moreover, my ministry has hosted 17 groups of visitors from various schools and civic groups (805 people in total). This has helped people from all facets of Taiwan’s society to gain a better understanding of our diplomatic policies.

(2) Guidance for NGOs: To help Taiwan’s NGOs connect with the international community and elevate Taiwan’s image, MOFA has hosted six courses to train youths in international affairs in the past six months. My ministry also has helped Taiwan’s NGOs attend 962 international conferences and activities and has subsidized them on 520 occasions.

(3) Academic exchanges: To foster international academic exchanges, MOFA has assisted Taiwan’s scholars to study and attend academic activities overseas. At various renowned universities and institutions in the United States, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, they have conducted research on international relations and have built up their connections abroad. Also, to encourage foreign scholars to study Taiwan, the Asia-Pacific region and other topics related to Sinology, MOFA established the Taiwan Fellowship this April. Each year up to 30 scholarships will be offered to outstanding scholars from aboard to come and study in Taiwan.

(4) Future direction: The private sector possesses abundant resources. Outstanding talented people—the “pride of Taiwan” –can be found in the fields of sports, science, technology, food, art, music, community service and humanitarian aid. MOFA will adopt innovative approaches in order to make better use of the public sector’s strengths in our diplomatic endeavors. With the resultant momentum, the Republic of China (Taiwan) will shine in the international arena and earn respect from the rest of the world.

8.Revitalizing Taiwan’s economy
Since Taiwan acceded last year to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which opens a door to over US$270 million in potential business opportunities, the government has striven to help Taiwanese enterprises win contracts abroad. MOFA has also encouraged business people to travel to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, including Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Swaziland, to look into investing and establishing factories in these countries. MOFA also has entrusted the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) to host commercial exhibitions in Central and South America, West Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region so as to seek business opportunities for Taiwan’s enterprises.

The government has assisted businesses to join forces with the United States and Japan and file suit against the European Union (EU) for violating the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA). In the end, the WTO ruled that the EU had violated the ITA. Soon Taiwan’s flat panel displays exported to the EU should enjoy zero tariffs, saving our enterprises NT$19.6 billion each year.

In addition, under the Executive Yuan’s Global Investment Policy, MOFA established a task force on global investment this July. Through our foreign embassies and missions, MOFA will promote investment opportunities overseas in hopes of revitalizing Taiwan’s economy.

9.Making organizational changes
Based on the timetable set by the Executive Yuan’s task force for organizational reform, MOFA has submitted a report on its organizational changes to the Executive Yuan for review. MOFA will continue to make appropriate arrangements and plans regarding its organization, buildings and facilities, budget, personnel transfer, protection of employee rights, amendment of regulations, and information integration. Such efforts aim to enhance MOFA’s efficiency and effectiveness.

10.Other achievements
(1) Retrieving funds in the Papua New Guinea (PGN) fraud case: MOFA has been pursing the funds embezzled by Chin Chi-ju and Wu Shih-tsai, who were supposed to use the money to establish diplomatic ties with Papua New Guinea. According to a Singaporean court’s ruling for Taiwan in 2008, Wu Shih-tsai must return US$29.8 million to us. Thus far, MOFA has received a total of US$5.9 million (NT$190 million) from four remittances. Our victory in this case has proven that, when seeking to resolve problems, Taiwan respects legal procedures and the principle of “decent diplomacy”, thereby earning the recognition of the international community.
(2) Signing judicial agreements: This April, the Agreement between the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vietnam and the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei on Judicial Assistance in Civil Matters was signed. The Executive Yuan has approved it and submitted it to the Legislative Yuan for review. In addition, Taiwan and Panama signed an agreement on the extradition of convicts this July, which has further advanced our bilateral judicial cooperation and has safeguarded the rights of the people of Taiwan.

Factors from both home and abroad must be taken into account when formulating and promoting diplomatic policies. Therefore, MOFA has put great emphasis on garnering support from the international community and Taiwan’s private sector. MOFA will continue to strengthen its communication with all sectors of society, as well as with foreign governments, parliaments, media and academic institutions. MOFA also will continue to explain its flexible diplomacy policy and listen to opinions on Taiwan’s policies from different countries in order to enhance the effectiveness of the flexible diplomacy policy.

MOFA has shouldered the diplomatic mission entrusted by the people of Taiwan. Therefore, all of us at MOFA have the responsibility to safeguard the dignity and interests of our country. My ministry will double its efforts and take advantage of the cross-strait rapprochement so as to expand Taiwan’s international space and influence using pragmatic and rational approaches. By so doing, we can make the people proud to be citizens of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Your comments and suggestions would be highly appreciated. Thank you very much.