Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 3 News List

President meets leaders of Central American nations


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) met with several of his Central American counterparts at his hotel room in Costa Rica's capital on Sunday, mainly to exchange views on the signing of free-trade agreements (FTAs) between Taiwan and its diplomatic allies in the region.

Chen had one-on-one meetings with Guatemalan President Oscar Berger, Haiti's acting President Boniface Alexandre, Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos, Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca and Panamanian President Martin Torrijos.

The heads of state all restated a resolve to support Taiwan in its bid to take part in major international organizations, including the WHO.

Taiwan and Guatemala signed a letter of intent last September on setting up an FTA. The agreement is expected to take effect this month after the Taiwanese government finishes screening tariff lists.

Chen invited Saca to Taiwan in October for a visit, during which he said they could sign a Taiwan-El Salvador FTA. He said that an agreement would be a shot in the arm for the development of a proposed vocational training center to be named the "Taiwan Park in El Salvador."

Taiwan has promised to channel some US$8 million to finance the development of the center.

Saca said El Salvador would not shift diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China simply because of pressure from Beijing.

Meanwhile, Chen reiterated that the NT$7.5 billion (US$250 million) "Jung Pang" project he initiated during a trip to Latin American last year remains in place and has received favorable responses from Taiwanese companies.

Separately, Chen also met Betty Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Ireland, in San Jose.

Williams invited Chen to visit Ireland, saying that she would do her utmost to help the president obtain a visa.

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