Fri, Sep 13, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Mongolian move reeks of dodgy politics

By Kao Koong-lian 高孔廉

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sept. 2 that Taiwan and Mongolia would exchange representative offices. The ministry claimed the deal "can strengthen bilateral cooperation in areas such as economics, trade, culture, tourism and labor affairs." From my experience at the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, I am not optimistic. The decision is merely a step toward the "de-sinicization" of Taiwan in a bid to implement the DPP's "Resolution on Taiwan's Future." Is it worthwhile to roll out another diplomatic pork barrel for this tiny benefit?

First, only a few hundred people travel between Taiwan and Mongolia annually. The annual Taiwan-Mongolia trade volume is no more than US$3 million. One must pass through China to enter Mongolia. There is little in the way of Mongolia-bound Taiwanese investments and these mostly focus on clothing because there are no quotas for Mongolian exports to Europe and the US. But as Taiwan and China have joined the WTO and as textile quotas will be removed by 2005, China will replace Mongolia in the textiles market.

Council of Labor Affairs Chair-woman Chen Chu (陳菊) recently visited Mongolia to discuss labor issues. Apparently the government uses the importation of workers as a bargaining chip to expand Taiwan's external relations. But Mongolians face language and cultural barriers in Taiwan and traveling expenses are much higher than that between Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Just how many Mongolian workers could pay the brokerage fees to come to Taiwan is questionable.

Second, Article 4 of the Constitution stipulates that "The territory of the Republic of China according to its existing national boundaries shall not be altered except by resolution of the National Assembly." But the ministry's decision undoubtedly treats Mongolia as an independent state. This is unconstitutional.

To strengthen bilateral ex-changes, the government could have the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission establish an office in Mongolia. The political intent of its decision reflects the ruling party's "Resolution on Tai-wan's Future," which recognizes that the ROC's sovereign territory only covers "Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and its affiliated islands."

The China External Trade Development Council set up a Taiwan trade and economic center in Mongolia in June. After only three months, another representative office is to be established. Is it really necessary? The Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission's latest bud-get report contains a plan to set up an office in Mongolia with the help of non-governmental organizations. If this is also to be implemented, there will soon be three offices representing Taiwan in Mongolia. Is this a waste? How will they divide the work?

What advantages can we have by playing this card? Will Mongolia admit the ROC as a result or support Taiwan's bid to rejoin the UN? Will high-ranking Mongolian officials, who care very much about China's attitude, pay frequent visits to Taiwan? I'm afraid that the answer is "no" to all three questions.

The Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission has provided assistance to Mongolia over the years, including food, disaster relief and coordinating with private organizations to provide medical care and humanitarian aid. But the Mongolian government has never publicly accepted such donations. Why should we stoop to such unequal relations? Will it become another diplomatic pork barrel when the ministry, rather than the commission, makes contact with Mongolia? The ruling and opposition parties should raise the issue.

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