Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chen's foreign policy successes

The fourth Republic of China-Central America Summit was held Thursday, with a sideline ceremony for the signing of Taiwan's first free-trade agreement, with Panama. President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) efforts to improve the nation's foreign relations and to lead it out of isolation appear to be working.

In contrast with the challenges Chen has faced in the domestic arena, he has shown impressive progress in foreign affairs. He has made three overseas visits and declared his determination to uphold commitments made by his predecessors to Taipei's allies. Not only were foreign ties stengthened, but during transit stops in the US, Chen also made public appearances and met with prominent political figures, helping to solidify US-Taiwan relations.

Even more importantly, through his overseas visits and large-scale diplomatic campaigns, Chen has pressured the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the nation's embassies to take a more proactive approach to relations with other countries. On his trips Chen has been able to see for himself the fruits of the country's foreign-aid projects as well as gaining an understanding of where mistakes have been made.

In order to maintain foreign ties in the face of Beijing's obstructionism, Taiwan often offers financial aid to its allies. Even though this practice has been condemned by lawmakers as "dollar diplomacy," the efforts to help allies in South and Central America, and Africa develop agricultural industries and improve infrastructure have had a positive impact. These efforts also supplement the campaign by developed democracies to stabilize international order. As Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has said, without Taiwan's hard work, South and Central America might have been swept away long ago by communism.

On the other hand, the government cannot continue to provide money, equipment and technological resources without paying attention to how these are used. Many developing countries are not sufficiently democratized and foreign-aid money ends up lining the pockets of a handful of politicians. Naturally, the opposition parties and democratic reformers in these countries will blame the governments that provided the funds.

Chen has been gradually changing all this. The government now relies less on individual aid packages and more on strengthening interactions on a collective basis. The goal is for Taiwan to eventually become a member of these collectives, furthering its links with international economic organizations in the future. The government is also trying to ensure that all foreign aid projects are transparent, to reduce the risk of criticism both at home and abroad. It is also encouraging the private sector, along with overseas Taiwanese, to assist the nation's diplomatic personnel in their work.

Day Sheng-tung (戴勝通), chairman of the National Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, has said that Taiwan's traditional industries could very well relocate to South and Central America. Not only would they expand their market in that region, but they would also create employment opportunities locally. Although many of our African allies have experienced internal unrest, through the preferential export trade treatment these countries enjoy from the US and EU, Taiwanese businesses have much to gain from investing there.

This story has been viewed 4301 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top