Thu, Aug 03, 2017 - Page 3 News List

More foreign offices should be shuttered, experts say

By Lu Yi-hsuan and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The government should reduce the number of its foreign missions and reallocate the resources to offices that promote the New Southbound Policy, academics and lawmakers said yesterday.

The establishment of more than 100 trade offices worldwide two to three decades ago was in line with the national policy to assist Taiwanese small-to-medium enterprises abroad, National Taiwan University associate professor Chen Shih-min (陳世民) said.

However, as the nation’s economic focus shifts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must also adjust its priorities in allocating resources to foreign offices, Chen said.

The adjustments are both necessary and reasonable, and is not aimed at weakening foreign diplomacy, but to more effectively promote diplomatic ties, he said.

Such policy changes must be implemented in a top-down manner, as the ministry might be pressured to give certain positions to people based on past favors or peer pressure, he said.

Chen urged the government to offer clear-cut policy directives to effectively promote office integration and resource distribution.

There should be a regular review of the efficacy of foreign offices and those that are hard-pressed to sustain practical diplomatic relationships with the nation they are stationed in should be considered for closure, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) said.

Some offices only have a director, a chauffeur and one office staff, and those resources should be redistributed to other offices, she said.

Budgetary constraints should be the least of concerns when working on national development, and more resources should be focused on the promotion of the New Southbound Policy, she said.

Reducing the number of foreign offices is not downsizing the total budget, but prioritizing it for other offices, DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said.

Although the nation only has 20 diplomatic allies, it has 116 offices in other countries.

The ministry on Thursday last week announced the suspension of trade office services in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Norway and Guam, citing limited resources.

The Jeddah office closed on Thursday; the Guam office is to close on Aug 31; and the Norway office is to close on Sept 30.

The duties of the closed offices are to be transferred to the trade office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of China Embassy in Palau and the Taiwan Mission in Sweden respectively.

The closures would cut expenses by NT$50 million (US$1.65 million), the equivalent of the annual budget for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vietnam.

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