Panama is a true friend of Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday upon his arrival in Panama City to attend the inauguration of Panamanian president-elect Ricardo Martinelli.
Ma lauded the century-long alliance between the two countries and vowed to reinforce bilateral ties.
“The Republic of China and Panama established diplomatic relations in 1909 [sic]. During the last 100 years, the two countries have maintained a strong and steady friendship and the people on both sides have shared a close relationship. The free-trade agreement signed in 2004 has also boosted trade volume between the two countries,” he said, commending the democratic development of the Central American ally.
In a meeting with Martinelli, Ma said that under the climate of “diplomatic truce” — an unspoken agreement with Beijing that China and Taiwan would stop attempting to lure each other’s allies — Taiwan would not oppose Panama forging a closer commercial relationship with China under the condition that Taiwan-Panama ties remain unchanged.
The president-elect promised to deepen the alliance and said he hoped that under his watch, both countries would enjoy a lasting trade relationship and more Taiwanese businessmen would invest in Panama.
Ma also said Taiwan would be happy to share its experiences in building a mass transit system with Panama and invited Martinelli to head a delegation to Taiwan to see the system.
In a press conference, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the entirety of Taiwan’s foreign aid was “project based” and that Panama should submit a detailed report on its plans to build a rapid transit system, which would be reviewed by government agencies back in Taipei.
Ma and first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) are accompanied by several senior government officials, including National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起), Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) and head of the Government Information Office Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓).
This is Ma’s second visit to Panama. The first visit was in 2001 when he was Taipei mayor.
In related news, while addressing Taiwanese media, Ma called on Hondurans to adhere to democratic principles following the recent coup and urged all sides to use dialogue to resolve the conflict.