The government did not get involved in a recent request from Grenada to defer debt repayment because the matter was handled by the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China, the state-owned bank charged with implementing state policy in trade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
Director-General of the Department of Central and South American Affairs Wu Chin-mu (吳進木) said the ministry was “in no position to intervene in the matter” because the loan in question was “commercial.”
Asked why the government renegotiated a debt repayment plan with Haiti to help it recover from an earthquake in January last year, Wu said Grenada, unlike Haiti, is not a diplomatic ally.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the government of Grenada had warned that “aggressive efforts” by Taiwan to collect a US$28 million ruling would hurt the tourism-dependent economy of the Caribbean island.
In an interview with the wire agency on Monday, Grenada Finance Minister Nazim Burke said cruise operators and airlines could halt operations in Grenada after receiving legal papers filed by US lawyers working for Taiwan compelling them to turn over any money they owe Grenada in fees or other payments.
Already, one cruise operator has threatened to cancel its 20 stops in Grenada until next year as a result of the effort to seize port fees.
“If this was to happen, we stand to lose millions,” Burke was quoted as saying.
The dispute centers on loans provided by the Export-Import Bank for a variety of infrastructure projects in Grenada in the 1990s, the report said.
Grenada officials have said they could no longer pay the loans because of a number of shocks to its economy, including the devastation from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the drop in tourism following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US, it said.
Taiwan filed suit in a US District Court for the Southern District of New York and won a summary judgement in 2007 that has grown to about US$28 million with interest and penalties, nearly the total value of its exports of goods in 2009, the report said.
The report quoted Paul Summit, a lawyer for the Export--Import Bank, as saying that Grenada has not paid any of the principal or interest on the judgement and that the bank is “pursuing a number of lawful avenues to achieve collection.”
Officials in the Caribbean nation have said Taiwanese officials refused to renegotiate the loans because Grenada had severed diplomatic relations in favor of China, it said.
Contacted by telephone yesterday, Wang Chi-chung (王吉忠), a spokesperson for the bank, would not comment on the matter.
“Any information about loans between the two countries pertains to state secrets,” Wang said.
“As a public servant, I can’t reveal any confidential information,” Wang said.