Mon, Jan 31, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Beijing seeking to expand its foothold in Caribbean area

DIPLOMATIC BATTLE Taiwan's envoys say they are facing an all-out campaign by China to woo away Taipei's long-time allies in the region

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

As Taiwan and China's diplomatic tug-of-war in the Caribbean intensifies, a forum designed to boost trade between China and 16 small countries in the region scheduled for Wednesday is seen as another move by Beijing to undermine Taipei's ties with its Caribbean allies.

Delegates will discuss bilateral trade and investment in tourism, agriculture, human resources and other areas at the four-day long China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum in Kingston, Jamaica, according to the Chinese embassy in that country.

EXPANDING

TRADE TIES

Bilateral trade between China and Caribbean nations reached US$1.4 billion in 2003 -- the latest year for which figures are available -- up 30 percent from 2002.

"The forum is the latest effort by Caribbean governments to lure lucrative Chinese trade and investment to the region," the Associated Press reported.

"It is an economic forum and some of our allies in the region might send officials to attend the event. Some are sent by their governments and some by their political parties," said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍).

DIPLOMATIC ASSAULT

"China wants to undermine our relations with our allies through this forum," Lu said.

"We are aware of it and our diplomats in the Caribbean allies have discussed this issue with their host countries," the spokesman said.

Taiwan lost its ally Grenada to China last Thursday.

"Beijing's diplomatic oppression of Taiwan is getting really fierce," said Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) last week.

COSTA RICAN PROJECT

Meanwhile, Taiwan's government has recently pledged US$50 million aid for a huge highway project in Costa Rica, said Wu Tzu-dan (吳子丹), Taiwan's ambassador to that country.

The mayor of San Carlos, a city in northern Costa Rica, invited Wu to brief officials on Taiwan's aid plan for the highway project last Friday.

The ambassador explained the project to an audience composed of businesspeople and city councilors as well as community groups. Wu took the opportunity to brief them on recent economic developments in Taiwan and its bilateral cooperation programs with Costa Rica.

The highway project, according to Wu, will cost around US$62 million. Taiwan's government will donate US$15 million and the ministry's International Cooperation and Development Fund will lend another US$35 million, he said.

The Costa Rican government will raise the rest of the US$12 million needed for the project.

Taiwan's RSEA Engineering Corp will build the highway, which will link San Carlos with San Jose, capital of the country.

HIGHWAY PROJECT A VITAL LINK

"Most of Costa Rica's 4 million population live around the city of San Jose, while San Carlos produces 68 percent of the country's dairy products. There is no highway link between the two cities, which constantly causes transportation problems," Wu said.

The highway will be 30km long.

"Its completion will not only facilitate transportation between the two cities but also boost tourism in the country," Wu said.

Construction will start in a few months and is scheduled to be completed in four years.

"The Costa Rican government is reviewing the project. The highway will go through mountainous areas and cross nine bridges, which are yet to be built. It is a grand project," Wu said.

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