Friday, April 21, 2006

TAIWAN NEEDS A NEW APPROACH IN LATIN AMERICA: MOFA OFFICIAL

Taipei, April 21 by Chris Wang (CNA)

Taiwan needs to explore a new approach in cooperating with its Latin American allies in order to prevent China from infiltrating a region where Taiwan has enjoyed international amity, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Friday.

China has had its sights set on Latin America since its economic boom, hoping to use financial aid and trade agreements to squeeze Taiwan's dipomatic space in the region, said Jason Ko, Director of the MOFA's Department of Central and South America Affairs, at the 2006 Taiwan-Latin America Forum.

Taiwan must hold its ground in Latin America, where 12 of its 25 diplomatic allies are located, and devise a new approach to replace the traditional way of "dollar diplomacy," Ko stressed. "Our allies in Latin America wanted a brand new cooperation format instead of simply receiving financial aid. They hope to see more investment from Taiwanese businesses," he said.

The "Jung Pang Project," an initiative President Chen Shui-bian proposed during his 2005 trip to Latin America, may be a good start. The NT$7.5 billion (US$250 million) project is aimed at encouraging Taiwanese investment in the region and represents a new diplomatic strategy.

The project was welcomed by foreign representatives who attended the annual forum: Costa Rican Ambassador Oscar Alvarez, Ambassador of the Republic of Paraguay Ramon Diaz Pereira and Guatemalan Ambassador Jorge Ricardo Putseys Uriguen. "I would describe the relationship between Taiwan and Latin America as 'both getting what they want.' Latin America needs economic assistance while Taiwan needs help in the political arena," said Elisa Wang, Dean of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of Latin America Studies, which organized the forum. "With a brand new thinking and approach, I believe Taiwan and Latin America can create a 'win-win' situation," Wang said.

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