Wed, Sep 21, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it is still mulling closure of overseas offices

EFFICIENCY:Spokeswoman Eleanor Wang said such evaluations ensure that the nation’s limited resources are being used in the most effective manner possible

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday downplayed reports that the nation’s representative offices in Norway, Guam, Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah and Germany’s Hamburg have been included in the first wave of foreign missions to be scrapped to maximize the nation’s diplomatic budget, saying the ministry is still in the middle of laying out concrete proposals.

At a routine news conference in Taipei yesterday morning, ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) was asked to confirm whether the fate of the four representative offices has been sealed, which Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) quoted Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) as having said at a meeting on Monday with DPP lawmakers.

“That was a closed-door meeting that I did not attend and therefore have no idea what the minister said specifically,” Wang said.

“In any case, we will submit concrete proposals to the Executive Yuan for review in accordance with due process and execute approved plans accordingly,” she added.

Wang made the remarks one day after Tsai quoted Lee as saying that the four offices have been singled out amid concerns that some foreign missions are no longer necessary for the nation’s strategic and diplomatic purposes.

Tsai said the function of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Guam, which used to serve as a node connecting the US military and South Pacific nations, has been taken over by the nation’s representative offices in South Pacific countries.

“Due to the proximity between Hamburg and the German capital, Berlin, the business of the Taipei Representative Office in Hamburg can be handed over to the representative office in Berlin,” Tsai said.

“As for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah Office, its operations can be taken over by our representative office in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh,” he added.

Tsai said that as Oslo has not exhibited a willingness to establish a representative office in Taipei in the near term, the personnel at the mission there should be deployed elsewhere.

Wang said that due to the nation’s special diplomatic situation and limited resources, the ministry has for years regularly reviewed and evaluated the allocation of personnel and resources at its overseas representative offices to ensure they are being used in the most efficient manner.

“Given growing discussions and a cross-party consensus gradually being forged on the matter in the legislature, ministry departments held a meeting on Sept. 8 to discuss how to make adjustments to representative offices’ resources,” Wang said.

“The ministry has decided to merge and streamline our representative offices overseas in stages,” Wang added.

As Lee on Monday briefed lawmakers about the preliminary ideas, the next step for the ministry is to send concrete proposals to the Executive Yuan for approval and then to notify representative offices to be axed to draw up a dissolution plan that suits their circumstances, Wang said.

Asked what would be the criteria for the ministry’s selection of foreign missions to be scrapped, Wang said it would factor in various indices, such as the amount of consular affairs the office has to handle, trade volume between Taiwan and the office’s host nation, as well as the host’s natural resources and political situation.

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