A special task force has been created to help promote President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “new southbound policy,” with an emphasis on using existing city-to-city relations to encourage bilateral visits and economic cooperation agreements, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
China’s efforts to marginalize Taiwan in the international community remain the nation’s greatest challenge, but non-traditional solutions, such as the “new southbound policy,” might provide alternative opportunities to enhance cooperation with other nations, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said.
Regional missions have been asked to submit plans to establish city-based channels of communication between Taiwan and Southeast Asian nations on issues such as mutual visits, multilateral diplomatic visits involving the legislatures of each nation, setting the groundwork for economic cooperation agreements, stepping up medical interaction and expanding mutual training programs, the ministry said.
Taiwan’s advantage lies in its emphasis on democracy, freedom and human rights, Lee said, adding that since his appointment he had met with officials from nations that share the same values as Taiwan and found that they were sincerely interested in pursuing further cooperation.
Lee said he is “more optimistic than ever” about the policy and he has revised his views toward several nations with which Taiwan might pursue further ties.
In response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang’s (江啟臣) concerns that the policy is vacuous, Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Director-General Winston Chen (陳文儀) said the ministry plans to enhance existing sister-city ties.
Many local governments have sister-city relationships with Southeast Asian cities, but lack the motivation for further interactions, Chen said, adding that the ministry’s missions in the region could help bridge the gap between city governments.
On the ministry’s plans to shutter some of its missions, Lee said the ministry has decided to consolidate the nation’s diplomatic resources, adding that it would reallocate any freed-up resources to Southeast Asian nations.
In related news, Sports Administration Secretary-General Wang Han-chung (王漢忠) said the government has allocated NT$72.7 million (US$2.2 million) to encourage sports as a medium for international exchanges, particularly in Southeast Asia.
The agency is increasing its funding to local sports organizations for training and applying to join international competitions, while looking to invite Southeast Asian nations to Taiwan to participate in international friendlies, Wang said.
The agency plans to invite both private and government representatives from Southeast Asian nations to participate in meetings on sports policies in the hope of increasing bilateral talks between sports organizations, Wang said.
Additional reporting by Lin Tsung-wei
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