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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

President Tsai Ing-wen, left, and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales greet the media during her state visit to the ROC diplomatic ally in January 2017.
President Tsai Ing-wen, left, and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales greet the media during her state visit to the ROC diplomatic ally in January 2017. (Courtesy of Office of the President)
DO YOU KNOW?

  • More than 160 countries and territories accord visa-free, landing visa or e-visa privileges to ROC passport holders.
  • Taiwan is the only nation included in the US Visa Waiver Program that does not maintain official diplomatic relations with the United States.
The ROC is a sovereign and independent state that maintains its own national defense and conducts its own foreign affairs. As enshrined in the ROC Constitution, the country aims to ‟cultivate good-neighborliness with other nations, and respect treaties and the Charter of the United Nations … promote international cooperation, protect international justice and ensure world peace.”
The ultimate goal of the country’s foreign policy is to ensure a favorable environment for the nation’s preservation and long-term development.
The ROC has diplomatic relations with 20 countries and substantive ties with many others. From January 7-15, 2017, President Tsai Ing-wen visited four ROC diplomatic allies in Central America: Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. During this trip, she attended the inauguration ceremony of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and held bilateral talks with the heads of state of these countries.
The ROC has full membership in 37 intergovernmental organizations (IGO) and their subsidiary bodies, including the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Asian Development Bank and Central American Bank for Economic Integration. It also enjoys observer or other statuses in 21 IGOs and their subsidiary bodies, including the Inter-American Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and committees of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The ROC will, while upholding national sovereignty and dignity and advancing the welfare of the people, engage with the international community pragmatically and professionally to contribute wherever possible.
It will also seek support for its participation in United Nations specialized agencies and mechanisms focused on welfare and development such as the WHO, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The United States, European nations and other countries have voiced support for Taiwan’s participation in United Nations specialized agencies and mechanisms such as ICAO and UNFCCC.
A panel of international experts was invited to conduct a review of the second report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Taiwan January 16-20, 2017. The experts offered 78 opinions and recommendations with regard to the development of human rights over the past four years. International media representatives were also invited to attend and report on this process.
As of December 13, 2016, 165 countries and territories have accorded visa-free, landing visa or e-visa privileges to ROC passport holders. Taiwan has also inked working holiday agreements with 15 countries.
Notably, among the 38 countries included in the US Visa Waiver Program, Taiwan is the only one that does not maintain official diplomatic relations with the United States, highlighting the otherwise close relationship between the two sides.
The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), passed by the US Congress in 1979, has continued to provide a strong foundation for Taiwan-US cooperation in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed the importance of the TRA by stating the US commitment to Taiwan is both a legal commitment and moral imperative in his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in January 2017. Secretary Tillerson also reiterated that the US has commitments to Taiwan under the TRA and Six Assurances in response to US Sen. Marco Rubio’s written question.
The ROC and the Holy See enjoy long-standing diplomatic relations and possess a shared commitment to religious freedom and humanitarian relief. Acting in line with the universal values of peace, freedom, democracy and respect for human rights, Taiwan will continue to be an indispensable partner to the Holy See and other countries in their efforts to promote love, charity and world peace.
Likewise, sharing common values such as democracy, freedom and the rule of law, Taiwan and the European Union (EU), together with other European countries, have expanded cooperation and exchanges across numerous fields such as economics, technology and culture. For instance, economic and trade ties between Taiwan and European countries are stable and close. The EU is Taiwan’s fifth-largest trading partner and largest source of foreign direct investment, with accumulated investment reaching US$41.3 billion as of January 2017.
On April 10, 2013, Taiwan signed a fisheries agreement with Japan after 17 rounds of negotiations since 1996, expanding the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea. In November 2015, Taiwan and the Philippines concluded the Agreement Concerning the Facilitation of Cooperation on Law Enforcement in Fisheries Matters to safeguard the security of fishermen from both sides.
In July 2016, the Tribunal of the South China Sea Arbitration initiated by the Philippines rendered an award unilaterally declaring Taiping Island a rock that does not generate an exclusive economic zone. Taiping Island is part of the integral territory of the ROC and was not originally included in the Philippines’ submissions for arbitration. However, the tribunal took it upon itself to expand its jurisdiction to cover the legal status of Taiping Island. Taiping, the largest naturally formed island in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands and the only one that has fresh water, can sustain human habitation and an economic life of its own. This is indisputable. The arbitral tribunal did not formally invite the ROC to participate in its proceedings, nor did it solicit the ROC’s views. Therefore, the award has no legally binding force on the ROC. The ROC still maintains full rights associated with territorial waters, a contiguous zone, an exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The ROC is willing to work with all states concerned to advance peace and stability in the region through multilateral negotiations conducted on the basis of equality.
Under President Tsai’s New Southbound Policy, Taiwan is striving to broaden exchanges and cooperation with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand in economic and trade cooperation, talent cultivation, resource sharing and regional links. The long-term goal is to create a new type of cooperation based on mutual benefits.
The ROC government is committed to its approach of steadfast diplomacy, which aims to advance mutual assistance for mutual benefits. The policy is also defined as firm in purpose and is targeted at building robust relationships with diplomatic allies and countries that share the common values of freedom and democracy.
Under this approach, the focus of ROC diplomatic work is shifting from the one-way provision of foreign aid to two-way dialogue, with bilateral cooperation projects taking into consideration the development of both industries and markets.
As a model citizen in global society, Taiwan will continue to promote humanitarian aid and disease control while actively participating in international efforts to tackle climate change, terrorism and transnational crime. Going forward, the nation will build lasting partnerships with allied and like-minded countries through fostering governmental interactions, business investment and people-to-people exchanges, and work with its partners around the world to uphold and promote the universal values of peace, freedom, democracy and human rights.
Photo by Harry Huang