At a Glance
• Viable diplomacy: deepening relations with the world
• Enhancing international cooperation and humanitarian assistance
As a vibrant democracy, an economic powerhouse and a major provider of humanitarian and development assistance, the Republic of China plays an important role in world affairs. Though hindered from participating in many international organizations, it strives to maintain substantive and mutually beneficial relations with all other nations and to contribute to cooperative ventures of critical significance to mankind.
Since mid-2008, the ROC’s foreign policy has been guided by “viable diplomacy.” The principal aim of the approach is to redirect national resources that were previously squandered on counterproductive competition with mainland China in the international arena toward improving people’s lives worldwide.
President Ma Ying-jeou (wearing lei) receives a regal welcome from King Mswati III of Swaziland after touching down at the African nation in April 2012 for a state visit. (Courtesy of the Office of the President )
President Ma Ying-jeou and his administration have pursued an approach to engaging the international community known as “viable diplomacy” 活路外交 since his inauguration in May 2008. This policy aims to direct the ROC’s bilateral and multilateral international cooperation more effectively.
Previously, over a period of six decades, the ROC government in Taipei 臺北 and the Chinese Communist Party-led government in Beijing had engaged in hostile competition for diplomatic recognition. The dispute between the two governments over the issue of sovereignty made the Taiwan Strait a potential flashpoint for armed conflict in the region and hindered the ROC’s international cooperation efforts as well (see Chapter 3, “History”).
Cross-strait relations have been improving notably, however, since the two sides shelved sovereignty disputes in 2008 and resumed talks aimed at reaching agreements on mutually beneficial economic and civil interchange. This rapprochement has created not only an environment conducive to long-lasting peace and prosperity but also a “virtuous cycle” that allows the ROC to redirect its diplomatic resources toward enhancing substantive ties with other nations (see Chapter 6, “Cross-strait Relations”).
Through viable diplomacy, the ROC seeks to solidify its roles in the international community, especially those of a peacemaker, a provider of humanitarian aid, a promoter of cultural exchanges, a creator of new technologies and business opportunities, and a standard-bearer of Chinese-speaking culture.
Participation in International Bodies
Currently, the ROC has full membership in 32 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and their subsidiary bodies. Among them, Taiwan participates in the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the name “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu”; the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum under the name “Chinese Taipei,” which is also the name the ROC uses in the International Olympic Committee; the Asian Development Bank; and the World Health Assembly (WHA). In addition, the ROC has observer or other status in another 20 IGOs or their subsidiary bodies.
Among these 52 organizations, AVRDC–The World Vegetable Center as well as the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region are two renowned international organizations that are headquartered in Taiwan and dedicated to promoting global agricultural development.
By participating in these organizations, the ROC seeks not only to defend the rights and interests of its people but also to forge friendships with other nations and develop initiatives that benefit the world as a whole.
In the spirit of viable diplomacy, the ROC’s U.N.-related initiatives focus on meaningful participation in U.N. specialized agencies and mechanisms that address issues pertaining to the welfare of its people and its national development. While full membership in the United Nations currently remains distant, the ROC is seeking every practical, feasible, and innovative means of gaining meaningful participation, such as by first becoming involved as an observer. The government’s adoption of this pragmatic approach has enabled it to take part in a greater number of international forums than before. In particular, the ROC has been invited to the WHA as an observer for four consecutive years since 2009.
The government is following the same approach in seeking participation in other U.N. specialized agencies and mechanisms, with particular focus on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Since announcing its intention to join the two organizations in late 2009, the ROC has received substantial international support. Many of its diplomatic allies have sent letters to the ICAO’s secretary-general and to the UNFCCC’s executive secretary and have made remarks at the United Nations General Assembly, the ICAO Assembly and the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in support of the ROC’s meaningful participation in their activities. Numerous parliamentary bodies, including the European Parliament and the United States Senate and House of Representatives, have also passed supportive resolutions.
Non-diplomatic partners have also spoken favorably. In October 2011, Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, stated before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee that even though Taiwan currently cannot gain membership in various important international organizations, it should still be able to participate meaningfully as their activities directly affect the people of Taiwan.
In January 2011, the Air Navigation and Weather Services 飛航服務總台 under the Civil Aeronautics Administration 民用航空局 of the ROC’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications was accepted as a full member of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO). With the ROC’s participation in CANSO, an ICAO observer and global platform for air navigation service providers, the ROC Civil Aeronautics Administration will accordingly receive updated international aviation regulations. Besides CANSO, the ROC has also been engaged with a number of important ICAO observers, including the International Air Transport Association, Airports Council International and the Air Transport Research Society.
World Trade Organization
Since its accession to the WTO in 2002, the ROC has faithfully completed its obligations under WTO rules and, through its permanent mission based at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, has continued to participate actively in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations. To fulfill one of its accession commitments, the ROC became the 41st signatory to the plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement in July 2009. It also successfully concluded its second Trade Policy Review in July 2010, presenting a comprehensive picture of its trade policies and practices as well as reiterating its determination to cooperate constructively with other WTO members to promptly complete the Doha Round with a meaningful and balanced outcome.
As a genuine supporter of the Aid for Trade initiative of the WTO, the ROC believes that domestic development factors should be considered in all DDA negotiations. To ensure that developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) are better integrated into the multilateral trading system, the ROC offered financial support to help LDC delegations take part in the 7th Ministerial Conference in 2009 and continues to provide technical assistance and capacity building programs in cooperation with partner countries through its International Cooperation and Development Fund (hereafter “the TaiwanICDF”) 國際合作發展基金會. In 2010, the ROC contributed to the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) trust fund, a joint initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO) and WTO, in an effort to assist developing countries in improving their capacity to implement international sanitary and phytosanitary measures and to gain better access to export markets.
The ROC once again announced it would offer financial support to the Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund and the STDF at the 8th Ministerial Conference in December 2011. Including these two donations, the ROC’s overall contributions to the WTO trust funds have reached US$1.6 million.
In order to address core negotiation issues and advance common interests, the ROC has endeavored to engage in trade talks on all fronts by joining various negotiating subgroups, such as the Group of Recently Acceded Members, the Group of Ten, and the Friends of Anti-dumping Negotiations. In addition, the government is looking to expand trade and economic relations by taking part in accession negotiations with prospective new members, including Russia, Serbia, Laos, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
The year 2011 marked the 20th anniversary of the ROC’s membership in APEC. Since 1991, the ROC has actively participated in APEC-related activities while working closely with its fellow APEC member economies to promote sustained economic growth through commitments to trade and investment liberalization, business facilitation, and economic and technical cooperation in the region. In 2011 alone, the ROC participated in over 250 APEC-related meetings and events and hosted 20 APEC-related meetings and workshops.
The ROC has proposed many important initiatives in APEC, leading to some impressive achievements, including the APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) in 2003, the Green APEC Opportunity Initiative in 2007, the APEC Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Crisis Management Center and the APEC Research Center for Typhoon and Society (ACTS) in 2010, the APEC Food Emergency Response Mechanism in 2011, and the multi-year project Improving Natural Disaster Resilience of APEC SMEs to Facilitate Trade and Investment.
The APEC SME Crisis Management Center, which opened in Taipei in May 2010, aims to enhance the ability of SMEs to cope with economic crises. The ACTS, established in Taipei in November 2010, serves as a platform for bringing together relevant regional research and for establishing an effective early warning system and information-sharing network. From August 2004 to December 2011, the ROC established 89 ADOCs in 10 APEC partner member economies, offering 209,204 people access to digital opportunities to improve their businesses, jobs, studies and overall quality of life. Of particular note, the proportion of female participants increased from 16 percent in 2005 to 52 percent in 2011.
President Ma Ying-jeou designated former Vice President Lien Chan連戰as his representative to the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings (AELM) held in Lima (2008), Singapore (2009), Yokohama (2010), Honolulu (2011) and Vladivostok (2012). Dr. Lien is the highest-ranking former official the ROC has sent to the AELM since it joined this multilateral economic and trade forum.
Development and Humanitarian Assistance
In the 1950s, the ROC was the beneficiary of approximately US$100 million in foreign aid each year, equivalent to about 9 percent of its gross domestic product at the time. Thanks to such aid, it managed to get through the hard post-war years and create an “economic miracle.”
The ROC people are grateful for this generosity and feel morally obligated to help other societies in need. Over the past five decades, the ROC has provided hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of financial, material and technical aid, accumulating an abundance of valuable experience and a long list of accomplishments in the process.
In line with the principles of “appropriate motives, due diligence and effective practices,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in May 2009 published the White Paper on Foreign Aid Policy: Partnerships for Progress and Sustainable Development 援外政策白皮書：進步夥伴、永續發展, outlining key goals and strategies of the ROC’s foreign aid policy. The document also constitutes a declaration to ROC citizens and the world at large that the ROC government is determined to uphold the highest moral and professional standards and expand the scope of its humanitarian undertakings.
The International Cooperation and Development Act 國際合作發展法, promulgated on June 15, 2010, is a landmark statute that provides a legal basis and guideline for the ROC’s foreign aid activities. Drawing on the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the act aims to bring the ROC’s international cooperation and development projects in line with international norms.
The act designates the MOFA as the competent authority responsible for handling foreign aid affairs and coordinating related efforts by other government agencies. The MOFA drew up six regulations on the planning, implementation, supervision and assessment of these affairs, including the Regulations Governing Technical Assistance and Capacity Building for International Cooperation and Development Affairs 國際合作發展事務技術協助及能力建構處理辦法, which were promulgated on December 29, 2011.
International Cooperation Development Fund
The TaiwanICDF was established in 1996 as an independent organization implementing government-funded foreign aid programs. The organization’s core competencies include lending and investment, technical cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and international education and training. By the end of 2011, the organization had established 32 overseas technical missions in 28 partner countries, principally in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific.
The TaiwanICDF’s lending and investment activities range from providing micro-financing to funding large-scale infrastructure projects through cooperation with multilateral development banks, and from assisting private-sector growth to boosting social development. In 2011, the organization worked on several new lending projects in these and other fields, with an emphasis on agricultural finance.
The organization also nurtures academic talent through its Higher Education Scholarship Program, which enables foreign students to pursue a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs at universities in the ROC. The scholarships primarily focus on sustainable agricultural development, public health and medicine, science and technology, the humanities and social sciences, and private-sector development. Meanwhile, the MOFA also provides Taiwan Scholarships to foreign students pursuing higher education in a broader variety of fields. As of April 2012, 792 youths from overseas had benefited from these study programs, 58 of whom were sponsored by the MOFA and 734 by the TaiwanICDF.
The broader goal of education and training operations at the TaiwanICDF is to spur social and economic progress by assisting partner countries to expand and improve their pool of human resources. To this end, the organization conducts seminars and workshops on the ROC’s own development experiences for participants from around the world. Twenty-two workshops were organized in 2011, covering a diverse range of subjects such as health care management, employment, vocational training, marketing of commodities, food processing, media development, agribusiness, human capital management, science park planning and management, women’s development, climate change and natural resource management, and economic planning and development.
In the event of natural disasters, the TaiwanICDF offers timely assistance in cooperation with like-minded public and private organizations. For example, when Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake in January 2010, the organization responded immediately by dispatching a medical team that accompanied another mission from the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps 台灣路竹會. The organization also donated emergency tents to World Vision and 800 tonnes of rice to Food for the Poor.
To spur Haiti’s long-term recovery, the TaiwanICDF launched the Haiti Earthquake Calamity Recovery Assistance Project, which includes measures to train construction workers and bamboo handicraftsmen and boost grain production. The total cost of the project will be approximately US$2.4 million. The first phase of this project was completed at the end of 2011, and the second phase will be implemented between January 2012 and December 2013.
Additionally, the New Hope Village Residents Resettlement Project provides displaced Haitians with a permanent and sustainable living space on 322.5 hectares of land in Savane Diane. Construction of the new village was sponsored in part by private-sector organizations such as the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China. Taiwan’s Overseas Engineering and Construction Co. 海外工程公司 undertook the construction, which was completed in August 2012.
The TaiwanICDF also joined forces with Mercy Corps to develop a drought relief program in Kenya to repair and reconstruct the region’s water supplies and associated infrastructure. The second phase of the program aimed to improve the ability of households and communities to cope with and recover from natural and man-made shocks. This relief program included a voucher-exchange scheme to provide drinking water to those in need and grants to water-pump stations. Funds were also used to repair related equipment, test and disinfect water sources, build public toilets, and promote public health education so as to mitigate the spread of water-borne diseases.
The TaiwanICDF is cooperating with Mercy Corps on other humanitarian projects around the world as well. In Haiti, for example, a cholera response project was implemented to improve conditions in Port-au-Prince. To ensure food security in war-stricken Libya, the two organizations provided feed to local chicken farms. Aid has also been provided in South Sudan, where displaced refugees received assistance growing agricultural products near their camps.
To utilize the talents of the ROC nationals who are eager to share their know-how while learning from other cultures, the TaiwanICDF recruits medics, technicians and agricultural experts to serve abroad. The organization also directs the Taiwan Youth Overseas Service 外交替代役, through which young men perform humanitarian service abroad in place of military service at home. As of December 31, 2011, the TaiwanICDF had 188 staff working at overseas missions. A total of 821 conscripts contributed to these missions from 2001 to 2011.
Contributions by Nongovernmental Organizations
Following Taiwan’s societal changes, economic liberalization and democratic transformation over the past few decades, the ROC’s nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have flourished. They have raised the ROC’s profile by working with renowned international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) on projects closely aligned with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
In Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the ROC’s NGOs have collaborated with a variety of INGOs such as the Humpty Dumpty Institute, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, Handicaps Enfants sans Frontière, Chinese Christian Herald Crusades, and the Fullness in Christ Fellowship in the fields of agriculture, public health and poverty reduction. In Central Asia, these NGOs worked with Mercy Corps in Tajikistan and Georgia to implement various development projects. In South America, the ROC’s NGOs cooperated with the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada and World Vision in Paraguay, El Salvador and Haiti. These projects covered such areas as international humanitarian aid, medical assistance, poverty eradication, democratization, human rights and sustainable development.
NGOs providing international assistance in past years include the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps, which delivered medical services to other countries, such as Haiti, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Philippines; the Taipei Overseas Peace Service 中華人權協會台北海外和平服務團, which has worked for decades to provide primary education to refugee children in Thailand; the Amitofo Care Center 阿彌陀佛關懷中心, which has established orphanages in southern Africa; and World Vision Taiwan and the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families台灣兒童暨家庭扶助基金會, which have helped thousands of children around the globe through both public and private sector support.
Taiwan is also the birthplace and headquarters of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation 佛教慈濟慈善事業基金會, the world’s largest Buddhist charity and the largest NGO in the Chinese-speaking world. Tzu Chi has some 10 million regular financial supporters worldwide and 2 million volunteer workers serving in over 60 countries and provides medical services, emergency relief and various types of long-term assistance all over the world. Its members are typically among the first to reach the scenes of major natural disasters, including Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 and Thailand’s floods later that year.
Through its partnerships with nations the world over, the ROC seeks to advance common agendas that benefit all. It has full diplomatic relations with 23 states, including 12 in Central and South America and the Caribbean, four in Africa, six in Oceania and one in Europe (see table “Embassies and Missions Abroad”). As of April 2012, it maintained 92 representative offices in the capitals and major cities of 57 countries. Meanwhile, the ROC’s diplomatic allies, the European Union and other countries maintained 67 embassies or representative offices in the ROC.
The ROC has also signed working holiday programs with eight countries, allowing young people from the ROC to live, work and vacation for up to 12 months in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Ireland, and up to two years in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the number of countries and territories extending visa-free or landing visa privileges to the ROC passport holders climbed from 54 when President Ma Ying-jeou entered office in May 2008 to 129 as of October 2012.
The ROC enjoys close relations with its diplomatic allies in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Oceania. Countless instances of fruitful cooperation between them can be cited in areas such as SME development, agriculture, forestry, fishery, animal husbandry, environmental protection and tourism. Taiwanese businesses currently have investments in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay and Haiti, contributing to economic development and generating job opportunities in the region. Meanwhile, the ROC has signed bilateral free trade agreements with Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras.
The ROC and its partners also engage in frequent high-level visits. During the ROC’s centennial celebrations in October 2011, a record number of foreign delegations and dignitaries visited the ROC. Among them were President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, President Álvaro Colom Caballeros of Guatemala, President Marcus Stephen of Nauru, President Johnson Toribiong of Palau and Prime Minister Danny Philip of the Solomon Islands.
In January 2012, ROC Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang 楊進添 paid official visits to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Saint Lucia and The Gambia. During that trip, he attended the inauguration ceremonies for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and Gambian President Yahya Jammeh.
In April 2012, President Ma traveled to Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Swaziland, where he met with the respective heads of state and signed communiqués promoting bilateral cooperation as well as global and regional peace. While in Burkina Faso and The Gambia, both of which are plagued by severe power shortages, he witnessed the results of the ROC’s “A Lamp Lighting up Africa” project, initiated in 2009 to help children study at night with solar-powered light-emitting diode lamps. After the program’s implementation, school attendance rates increased significantly.
Since January 2012, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe have granted visa-waiver privileges to ROC nationals. Official and diplomatic passport holders can visit the West African nations for up to 90 days without a visa, while regular passport holders may receive landing visas for up to 30 days.
In Europe, the ROC has diplomatic ties with the Holy See, founded on their mutual commitment to serving humanity and advancing human dignity. In December 2011, the two sides signed a historic agreement on the promotion of higher education exchanges. Under this agreement, titles, diplomas and degrees earned at ecclesiastical universities worldwide are recognized in the ROC, and vice versa.
Despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties since 1979, Taiwan and the United States continue to have an important security and economic partnership. The United States is the ROC’s third largest trading partner, while the ROC is the United States’ tenth largest. In 2011, the ROC’s total exports to the United States amounted to US$36.36 billion, up by 15.57 percent from the previous year; imports from the United States amounted to US$25.76 billion, an increase of 1.5 percent.
The two countries maintain a wide range of cooperative relations in the realms of security, trade, investment, cultural exchange, education, as well as science and technology.
The United States is one of a number of major countries to voice strong support for the ROC’s greater participation in international organizations. In 2004, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution supporting the ROC’s efforts to gain observer status in the WHA. In September 2011, the Senate again unanimously approved a resolution backing the ROC’s bid to take part in the ICAO as an observer. More than 20 state assemblies also passed resolutions that year in favor of the ROC’s meaningful participation in the ICAO and the UNFCCC.
The U.S. administration and congress have also reaffirmed numerous times their commitment to helping the ROC maintain its self-defense capability. In September 2011, the U.S. government agreed to sell the ROC an arms package totaling US$5.85 billion, including the retrofit of the ROC’s aging F-16 A/B fighter jet fleet, pilot training and spare parts (see Chapter 7, “National Defense”). In November 2011, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act, urging the U.S. administration to sell Taipei advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets to bolster the island’s defense capabilities.
That month, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee also approved the Taiwan Policy Act, which calls for the U.S. administration to broaden and deepen relations with Taipei via actions such as exchanging high-level official visits, signing an extradition pact and resuming Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks.
In early December 2011, a delegation of U.S. officials composed of members of the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense (including the U.S. Coast Guard) visited the ROC to discuss counter-piracy cooperation. It was the first time a U.S. delegation had visited the ROC for such discussions.
In early October 2012, the U.S. government announced Taiwan’s inclusion in its VWP, making the ROC the 37th country to obtain visa waiver treatment from the United States and the seventh in the Asia-Pacific region, after Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Brunei and South Korea. Starting in November 2012, ROC passport holders will be allowed to enter the United States visa-free for stays of up to 90 days.
The ROC and Japan are neighbors with significant historical, trade and investment ties. While the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations, Japan is the ROC’s second largest trading partner and one of its biggest foreign investment sources, while the ROC is Japan’s fourth largest trading partner. Japanese investment in Taiwan grew by 9 percent in 2011, while Taiwanese investment in Japan soared 520 percent in the same period. The ROC’s exports to Japan in 2011 amounted to US$18.23 billion, an increase of 1.23 percent from the previous year, while imports from Japan amounted to US$52.2 billion, up by 0.54 percent.
The ROC and Japan have been working to make travel more convenient and rewarding for each other’s citizens. Since October 2008, ROC and Japanese citizens who have held a valid driver’s license for more than three months in their home countries have been able to use their native licenses (with accompanying translations) to drive in the other country.
In April 2009, Japan signed a “working holiday” agreement with the ROC, whereby young citizens of either country can obtain special visas that allow them to work while visiting the other country.
For several decades, flights to Japan were only available from international airports in Taoyuan 桃園 and Kaohsiung 高雄. The resumption of flights between Taipei International Airport (Songshan Airport) 臺北國際航空站 and Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) on October 31, 2010 after three decades of suspended services has boosted the convenience of tourists from both cities and enhanced Taiwan-Japan relations.
In the wake of the massive March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan, the ROC sent an emergency rescue team and 566 tonnes of relief supplies to Japan, as well as over US$200 million in aid, 90 percent of which came from private donors. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan subsequently issued an open letter thanking the ROC for its friendship and assistance during his nation’s worst natural calamity in decades.
Taiwan-Japan relations saw a major milestone on September 22, 2011, with the inking of an agreement between Taipei’s Association of East Asian Relations 亞東關係協會 and the Tokyo-headquartered Interchange Association 交流協會 on the liberalization, promotion and protection of investment. The pact, containing 26 articles covering a variety of trade issues such as dispute settlement and most favored nation status, marks the first sweeping bilateral investment accord that the ROC has signed with one of its major trading partners.
On November 10, 2011, the ROC and Japan amended a bilateral aviation agreement, granting respective fifth freedom rights and green-lighting additional services between the countries. Both nations have agreed to execute the agreement in two phases. The first phase is to open nonrestricted route destinations by permitting unlimited numbers of airlines and flights to all destinations except Tokyo and its environs. The second phase is to open Tokyo, gradually increasing the number of flights there.
Despite a lack of formal ties, visits to the ROC by several Japanese political heavyweights over the past two years have signified the close relationship between Taipei and Tokyo. These include trips by former Japanese prime ministers Taro Aso (in April 2010 and October 2011), Shinzo Abe (November 2010 and September 2011), Yoshiro Mori (December 2010, May 2011 and April 2012) and Toshiki Kaifu (March 2011 and March 2012) to promote cultural, economic and tourism exchanges. In October 2011, among the foreign delegations visiting the ROC for its centennial national day celebrations, Japan sent the largest one—a record-high 492 members, including 65 legislators of the Japanese Diet. The size of the delegation was in part an expression of Japan’s gratitude for the ROC’s aid and support after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan in March 2011.
The ROC is among the top foreign investors in the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It is also an important market for goods and services from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as a provider of technology. In 2011, the ROC’s exports to ASEAN member states amounted to US$51.54 billion, an increase of 22.83 percent from 2010, while imports from that region reached US$32.8 billion, up 13.54 percent.
Although economic and trade relations between the ROC and ASEAN countries are close, the ROC’s ability to participate fully in East Asian economic integration has been impeded as a consequence of Beijing’s objections. With a view to maximizing the benefits of free trade while removing hindrances to development of economic ties in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, since mid-2008 the ROC government has signed the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement 海峽兩岸經濟合作架構協議 and 17 other agreements with mainland China (see Chapter 6, “Cross-strait Relations”).
In the second half of 2011, Thailand was devastated by the worst flooding in the country’s history. The ROC government donated US$200,000 to Thailand for post-disaster reconstruction in addition to providing relief supplies and sending experts to help with disinfection and cleanup tasks.
In December 2011, Typhoon Washi swept through the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines, causing flash floods and landslides. The port cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro were among the hardest-hit areas. The ROC responded by donating US$150,000 for relief efforts.
In September 2011, the ROC and Vietnam inked pacts pertaining to customs administration and financial cooperation, further strengthening bilateral relations and setting the table for increased trade. The customs agreement will see Taipei and Hanoi establish a mechanism for harmonizing procedures and slashing red tape to boost bilateral trade, while a memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering banking regulations, public accounting standards and taxation rules will be implemented.
A mutual recognition agreement on driver’s licenses between the ROC and Malaysia came into effect on November 1, 2011. ROC and Malaysian citizens may exchange their compact car or motorcycle licenses while in the other country, provided they meet certain passport and visa requirements.
The ROC enjoys strong ties with European countries. The European Union is currently the ROC’s leading source of foreign direct investment and fourth largest trading partner, while the ROC is the European Union’s 15th-largest trading partner. The annual Taiwan-EU Consultation, held alternately in Brussels and Taipei, serves as an important platform for promoting economic and cooperative relations. The 23rd round of consultations was convened in Taipei in October 2011.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, EU institutions and the European Parliament have issued numerous statements and resolutions in favor of the ROC’s efforts to improve cross-strait relations and to participate more fully in international organizations by extending cross-strait conciliation into the realm of global affairs.
Parliamentary liaisons in particular have played a valuable role in encouraging the development of cooperative bilateral and multilateral ties over the years. The European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group founded in 1991, for example, has supported the ROC’s endeavors to play a constructive role in the international community and contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity.
In May 2011, the European Parliament passed a resolution supporting the enhancement of Taiwan-EU trade and economic ties and the signing of a bilateral economic cooperation agreement. The European Parliament also reaffirmed its backing for the ROC’s participation as an observer in international organizations such as the UNFCCC, WHO and ICAO.
In September 2011, the European Parliament held its first-ever debate on launching EU-Taiwan free trade agreement negotiations. During the debate, a total of 16 members spoke in favor of commencing FTA negotiations with the ROC.
In October 2011, 270 members of the European Parliament signed a letter to President Ma, congratulating the ROC on the 100th anniversary of its founding and reiterating their support for the signing of a Taiwan-EU economic cooperation agreement. They also affirmed the ROC’s achievements in democratic development, the rule of law and human rights, stating that the universal values shared by the ROC and the European Union represented the driving force behind the continued deepening of their bilateral relationship.
Other recent positive developments in interactions between the ROC and individual European countries include:
• January 2011—The Schengen visa waiver took effect, allowing ROC passport holders to enjoy visa-free entry to 35 European countries and territories for stays of up to 90 days.
• March 2011—France granted ROC nationals visa-free privileges, allowing them to enter 11 French overseas territories, including French Guiana, French Polynesia and Guadeloupe, for stays of up to 90 days.
• June 2011—The British Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei announced that starting July 4, 2011, ROC citizens applying for long-term student visas in the United Kingdom will no longer have to provide documentary evidence of financial support and educational qualifications.
• September 2011—A tax agreement signed between the ROC and Slovakia covering the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion took effect.
• November 2011—The ROC signed an MOU with Italy to boost cooperation on preventing smuggling and improving customs clearance efficiency; the Netherlands granted ROC passport holders visa-free entry to Aruba and Curacao for up to 30 days, and all other Dutch territories for up to 90 days.
• December 2011—The ROC and the Holy See inked an agreement on collaboration in the field of higher education and recognition of studies, qualification, diplomas and degrees; the ROC and Hungary signed three letters of intent on a bilateral working holiday agreement, an economic cooperation MOU and an air services agreement; an ROC-Switzerland pact abolishing double taxation between the two countries took effect; the ROC and Germany inked a treaty eliminating double taxation and clamping down on tax evasion.
• January 2012—The ROC-U.K. Youth Mobility Scheme took effect;
• February 2012—The Belgian Chamber of Representatives adopted a resolution in favor of signing an ROC-EU economic cooperation agreement and supporting the ROC’s meaningful participation in international organizations such as the UNFCCC and the ICAO as an observer.
• March 2012—Slovakia approved an amendment of its regulations on driver’s licenses, allowing ROC driver’s license holders to exchange their licenses for Slovakian licenses without taking an examination.
• April 2012—The British Virgin Islands’ decision to grant ROC passport holders visa-free entry went into effect.
Commitment to Global Vision and Understanding
To enhance the effectiveness of the ROC’s cultural diplomacy, the MOFA has organized the Training Course on International Affairs for Future Talents in Taiwan’s NGOs 年度NGO國際事務人才培訓班, the Young Diplomat Program 外交小尖兵, the People’s Diplomacy Camp 全民外交研習營, the International Young Ambassadors Program 國際青年大使交流計畫, on-the-job training for NGO cadres to INGOs 選送NGO中高階幹部赴海外INGO實習, the 100-hour Camp for Young NGO Leaders 青年領袖非政府組織國際事務研習營 and the International Youth Culture and Study Tour in the Republic of China (Taiwan) 國際青年臺灣研習營. It also encourages young people to take educational tours abroad.
At the same time, the MOFA promotes visits by foreign academics, artists and political figures by conducting or facilitating a variety of international seminars, conferences and other events in the ROC. Its website and those of its offices around the world also provide a wealth of information about the nation.