Fri, Aug 12, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The new DPU has noble aims

On Sunday, an international NGO called the Democratic Progressive Union (DPU) will be formally established in Taipei, an organization boasting more than 20 member countries, including a number of Taiwan's Latin American allies as well as representatives from the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The organization is the brainchild of Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), and aims to serve as a platform for personnel and resource exchanges around the Pacific Rim, and a platform to promote democracy, ensure peace in the region and spread prosperity.

To what extent it can work substantively to actualize its vision remains to be seen. But the fact that an organization will exist in which Taiwan plays an active role will provide the country with leverage in Asia's fast-paced process of regional integration.

Last Friday, five Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, agreed to establish a single tourist visa in hopes of boosting tourism in the region. While further details of the join visa venture will be soon discussed, the idea, modeled somewhat after the EU, suggests a realignment of the region. Needless to say, the grouping of "ASEAN plus one," including China, will be extended to "ASEAN plus three," including China, Japan and Korea. It is uncertain whether it will indeed come to incorporate Australia and New Zealand, as China has suggested, to become a mammoth "East Asian Free Trade Area."

In view of the growing economic integration taking place in Asia, what role will Taiwan play? Given Taiwan's limited diplomatic allies and the threat it faces from an abominable neighbor, Taiwan meets a lot of obstacles when it tries to take part in international organizations, let alone being one that initiates them.

Without membership in major economic or political international organizations, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Asian Monetary Fund or even in the case of non-political bodies such as the World Health Organization, playing host and taking part in an international NGO organization could be one path which Taiwan could pursue, and thrive.

Although some wonder about the prospects for the DPU's longevity and how it will operate, it does, however, provide Taiwan with more international visibility. The trend of Taiwan's being edged off the map and marginalized in Asia's integration process could be ended. By participating in more regional organizations, Taiwan could take advantage of more venues and opportunities for dialogue, cooperation and mutual trust. It could help create confidence-building measures and enhance conflict prevention initiatives. More conferences and multilateral forums should invite Taiwan -- a democracy that has shared prosperous economic relations with countries in Southeast Asia -- ? as a dialogue partner. They, too, would also benefit from such an arrangement. Cooperation of this kind would not only allow for economic collaboration but also serve as a venue where all parties could work together on non-conventional security issues, such as human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and international terrorism.

In the face of obstruction from China, Taiwan should not be intimidated and thus confined. Rather, it should continue to seek a breakthrough by cooperating with non-governmental organizations that allow for transnational cooperation.

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