Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Analysts upbeat about summit

DIPLOMACYThe meeting with Latin American allies reaffirmed valuable ties and the trade pact with Panama will give long-term economic benefits, observers said

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

This week's summit with representatives of Taiwan's Central American and Caribbean diplomatic allies has significant and substantial meaning for the nation's standing in the world as well as the economic development of Central America, one of the world's burgeoning economic and trade zones, analysts said yesterday.

The Fourth Summit of the Heads of States and Governments of Taiwan, Central America and the Dominican Republic was held on Thursday, with Taiwan also signing its first free-trade agreement, with Panama.

Eight representatives from Taiwan's Central American and Caribbean allies, including Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Belize and the Dominican Republic, attended the one-day summit held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Taipei.

Lo Chih-cheng (羅致正), chief executive officer of the Institute for National Policy Research, said that the summit was significant in that it was the first time that Taiwan has hosted an international leaders' summit.

"Though a leaders' summit is a normal event for national leaders in international society, it is particularly special to Taiwan in that this summit is the only high-profile multinational meeting that Taiwan initiates and participates in regularly under the title of the Republic of China," Lo said.

Lo said the summit also helped consolidate and upgrade Taiwan's diplomatic ties with its allies in Latin America.

"Taiwan's Central American and Caribbean diplomatic allies have always been solid supporters of Taiwan's bids to join international organizations such as the UN and the World Health Organization. It is even more important for Taiwan to consolidate relations with these allies for the benefit of its future international participation," Lo said.

Lo said that the free-trade agreement with Panama could give Taiwan a foot in the door to the US market.

"Now many Central American and South American countries are trying to sign bilateral free-trade agreements with the US, and that would be a stepping stone for Taiwan to expand economic relations with other Latin American and North American nations.

"When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) gradually expands to Central and South America, Taiwan can also indirectly benefit from it as we will be connected to the entire American market," Lo said.

A communique issued at the end of the summit called for Taiwan to be admitted to the System for Integration in Central America (SICA).

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) also stated in the summit that the signing of the trade pact with Panama brought Taiwan closer to the entire American economic and trade region, which is slated to establish a Free-Trade Agreement of the Americas in 2005.

Despite the diplomatic and economic achievements of the summit, doubts remained over Panama's diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The Panamanian vice president is visiting Beijing with a group of economic and trade delegates.

Lawmaker Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) yesterday said the summit symbolized the firm diplomatic relations Taiwan has with Panama and that Taiwan actually wouldn't mind if its official allies built economic relations with China.

"Taiwan has changed its past zero-sum diplomatic strategy to a more realistic approach that as long as our diplomatic allies maintain official recognition of Taiwan, we wouldn't mind if they build economic relations with China if necessary. It's a double-track strategy; we want us and our allies to be in a win-win situation," Hsiao said.

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