Sun, Sep 25, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Two leaders reaffirm solidarity, friendship

BILATERAL BOON Taiwan and the Dominican Republic inked a joint communique on Friday, highlighting the positives that a free-trade agreement will bring to both

AGENCIES , SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) signed a joint communique with his Dominican Republic counterpart Leonel Fernandez Reyna on Friday to reaffirm bilateral friendship and solidarity between the two countries.

Chen and his entourage arrived in the capital of the Dominican Republic from Guatemala on Friday afternoon and were accorded a red-carpet welcome complete with 21-gun salute and full military honors.

After the signing of the joint communique, the two heads of state said that they were happy to see the two countries sign a letter of intent in February on the signing of a Taiwan-Dominican Republic free-trade agreement (FTA) and that they agreed that the two countries should begin consultations on the matter immediately so as to strengthen bilateral economic and trade relations.

Fernandez invited Taiwan's public and private enterprises to invest in his country, vowing that his government will provide incentives and all the necessary assistance.

Garlic growers

Chen promised to help promote more investment in the Dominican Republic, adding that Taiwan will also help the Caribbean country improve the lives of its garlic growers and urban economy and set up a burn-treatment center for children.

Firm support

For his part, Fernandez expressed his support for Taiwan and his opposition to the use of force in solving cross-strait disputes. He also reaffirmed his support for Taiwan's bid to join the UN, the World Health Organization and other international organizations.

At a dinner banquet, Fernandez reaffirmed his longstanding support for the deepening of democracy in Taiwan and his stance of settling cross-strait disputes by peaceful means.

Saying that Taiwan's economic miracle is the model for Asian and Pacific countries, Fernandez expressed the hope that more Taiwan entrepreneurs will invest in his country and that the two countries can sign the FTA soon.

Chen said the signing of the FTA will lure more Taiwan businesspeople to invest in the Dominican Republic and promote exchanges between Taiwan and the Caribbean and North America.

Taiwan recently built a US$15 million hospital in Azua, about 120km west of Santo Domingo. Taiwan also supports projects in agriculture and technology and provides scholarships each year for Dominicans to study abroad.

Chen, traveling with a delegation of ministers and business leaders, visited the Dominican Republic as a part of 10-day tour of some of Taiwan's allies in Central America and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, in other developments, Chen will soon explain the details of the message that he asked opposition People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to convey to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) earlier this year, one of his aides said.

Soong's message

Chen will sit down in an informal meeting with a group of Taiwan reporters covering his ongoing five-nation diplomatic tour and explain in detail what message he had asked Soong to relay to Hu during Soong's high-profile visit to China in May this year.

A senior US State Department adviser, James Keith, claimed last week that Soong passed the message to Hu during their meeting, according to which Chen was willing to engage in dialogue with Beijing using a flexible formulation about what constitutes "one China."

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