Sat, Dec 11, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Diplomats share biggest challenges

DIFFICULTIES Taiwan's representatives posted across the globe came together to talk shop, and backed Chen's plans to use `Taiwan' in the names of their offices abroad

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Eight representatives or directors of the nation's overseas representative offices yesterday shared with the media the country's many diplomatic challenges -- including the EU's proposed removal of an arms embargo on China, the establishment of an ASEAN-China free trade area and the proposed change to the names of representative offices to include "Taiwan."

The representatives and directors, returning from France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Switzerland and the US, are attending courses designed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss these issues in the context of the ongoing global diplomatic struggle with China.

Chiou Jong-nan (邱榮男), representative to France, said although China hopes the EU will lift its arms embargo by June, it would find the goal difficult to achieve because of opposition from a number of EU nations.

"French President Jacques Chirac spearheaded the call for lifting the ban on China. Our representative office in France has explained to the French government Taiwan's stance on the issue through all kinds of channels," Chiou said during a tea party with reporters.

"We told the French government that China's human rights record remains shaky," Chiou said. "If the EU removes the weapons embargo, some people may be led to think that somehow the EU supports China using force against Taiwan. Lifting the ban will also threaten stability in the Asia-Pacific region."

Nevertheless, France told the representative office that its support for removing the arms embargo is a political decision.

"They said the decision is part of its global security strategy and an important move to build up its strategic partnership with China," Chiou added.

Despite France's adamant backing for China on the issue, the representative said most countries in Eastern Europe opposed lifting the ban.

Wayne Wu (吳文雅), representative to Malaysia, said he is deeply concerned about the impact of China's economic integration with ASEAN on Taiwan.

"Last year, the bilateral trade volume between Taiwan and Malaysia reached US$7.8 billion, whereas trade volume between China and Malaysia amounted to US$20.1 billion," Wu said.

Taiwan's trade with Malaysia will definitely be affected after the ASEAN-China free trade area is established.

"Exchanges between Malaysia and China are vibrant," Wu said. "Malaysia has great expectations of the vast market opportunities that China offers."

The government is studying the possibility of signing a free trade agreement with Malaysia, but the actual progress in negotiating a trade pact with Malaysia is "limited," Wu acknowledged.

Commenting on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan to change the names of the country's overseas missions to Taiwan, the representatives said the government was right to make a distinction between Taiwan and China.

"It is the representative offices' responsibility to implement the government's policy ... For the dignity of our nation, I always introduce myself as `ambassador from Taiwan,'"said Henry Chen (陳銘政), representative to Ireland.

Matthew Lee (李世明), director of the representative office in San Francisco, said most overseas Taiwanese prefer the office to use "the Republic of China" in its title, but "Taiwan" is an acceptable alternative.

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