Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 3 News List

The struggle for an international voice

APEC MEMBERSHIP The 13 years since Taiwan gained admission to the economic group have been marked by highs and lows -- related to relations with China

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Academica Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh, center, leader of Taiwan's delegation to the 2004 APEC summit this weekend, speaks at a press conference on Friday. He is joined by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen, left, and Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh, right.

PHOTO: YEH CHIH-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Looking back at the past 13 years since Taiwan gained accession to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), it is easy to find flagrant suppression by China, who is also a member of the 21-economy group.

Beijing's back-room bullying over Taiwan's participation in APEC reached a climax in 2001, when Taiwan was forced to remove itself from the informal leaders' summit, better known as the economic leaders' meeting.

With President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) successful re-election to a second term, it will not be surprising to see China engage in petty maneuvers this year to belittle the nation's international status during the leaders' meeting.

With the theme of "one community, our future," the two-day Economic Leaders Meeting is scheduled to begin on Saturday in Santiago, Chile.

Although President Chen's special envoy Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), President of Academia Sinica, said that the annual event is about economic cooperation and not politics or foreign policy, a high-ranking official at the National Security Council who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Taipei Times that he expects cross-strait issues to be one of the main issues during the leaders' summit following the election of US President George W. Bush to a second term. "We expect [China's suppression] and we're braced for that," he said.

APEC's 21 member economies account for more than a third of the world's population, 47 percent of world trade and about 60 percent of the world's GDP. In its first decade, APEC member economies generated nearly 70 percent of global economic growth.

The 21 member economies are: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the US, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Taiwan signed a memorandum of understanding with China and Hong Kong before joining the economic bloc in December 1991 under the name Chinese Taipei. The three economies jointly entered the organization as one Chinese economic entity.

Benjamin J.N. Liu (劉嘉甯) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of International Organizations said the country did not have much choice back then but to sign the memorandum in order to join the international organization.

"We knew the conditions were bad and unfair but we were desperate to join an international organization to have our voices heard in the international arena," he said. "It may take a long time for things to change."

Liu, however, pointed out the bright side of the situation.

Take the APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) for example. Liu said Taiwan raised a proposal to establish the center in Taipei during last year's leaders' summit in Bangkok and this was welcomed by APEC leaders.

The center has been up and running for a year and Taiwan is scheduled to brief fellow economies on it at this year's ministerial meetings.

KMT administration (1991 to 1999)

The 3rd APEC meeting in 1991 took place in Seoul, Korea. Twelve member economies, nine of which have diplomatic relations with China, agreed to let Taiwan and Hong Kong join the organization, but not as sovereign states. Taiwan's leader and foreign minister were banned from attending any APEC-related activities.

In 1992 Taiwan attended the 4th APEC meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, against the backdrop of a recent severing of diplomatic ties with South Korea. Then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) sent Minister of Economic Affairs Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) to the ministerial meeting.

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