Sat, Apr 02, 2005 - Page 3 News List

MOFA hires PR firm to help with US-Taiwan ties

THIRD PARTY The foreign affairs ministry confirmed it signed a contract, but side-stepped queries as to why the government seeks the services of a lobby group

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday confirmed that it has entered into a contract with the Washington-based lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers to help promote US-Taiwan relations, but avoided explaining why National Security Council Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) was tasked to sign the contract.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Chen (陳唐山) said yesterday that the government had signed a three-year contract with Barbour Griffith & Rogers on March 4, procuring the lobby group's services for a total of US$4.5 million. He said that Taiwan's envoy to Washington, David Lee (李大維) was present when the contract was signed.

"We've commissioned [the firm] to help promote our foreign affairs and public relations," Chen said yesterday, side-stepping media inquiries as to whether the government had sought the lobbying firm's services for a specific purpose.

It is widely believed that during his presidency, former president Lee Tung-hui (李登輝) commissioned the public relations firm Cassidy and Associates to help make his visit to the US possible.

Chen made the remarks yesterday after media reports revealed that Chiou had signed a letter of agreement with Barbour Griffith & Rogers chairman Ed Rogers. In accordance with the US' Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the letter of agreement and other relevant forms were on public record at the Department of Justice.

In the past, the government has refrained from directly commissioning PR firms to promote its interests in the US, choosing instead to go through intermediaries such as the Taiwan Studies Institute. In this most recent case, Taiwan is registered with the US government under the title "Republic of China (Taiwan)."

In a letter made out to Chiou, the lobbying company writes that "Our representation will encompass providing: clear communication [with] Washington, DC; strategic counsel; and tactical planning on foreign policy matters."

Chen also said that the public relations firm would help put Taiwan in touch with select state governments. "People say this is unnecessary as relations with the US are good right now, but with foreign affairs, the more channels of communication you have, the better," Chen said.

Chen also said that the deal had been reached "under the sun," suggesting that the deal was transparent. He said that the ministry had previously attempted to procure the lobbying firm's services without success, but did not elaborate on what had triggered the firm to take on Taiwan as a client last month.

He further said that if the ministry's budget permitted and if deemed appropriate, he would not rule out commissioning other firms to perform similar services.

Barbour Griffith & Rogers has close ties with the US Republican Party. Nearly all of the firm's management team worked previously for or in conjunction with the Bush administration.

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