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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

A box of medical supplies stands ready to be loaded onto
a flight bound for Taiwan’s allies and like-minded partners
during the coronavirus pandemic.
A box of medical supplies stands ready to be loaded onto a flight bound for Taiwan’s allies and like-minded partners during the coronavirus pandemic.(Chen Mei-ling)
FACT FOCUS

  • A total of 170 countries and territories accord visa-free, landing visa or e-visa privileges to Republic of China (Taiwan) passport holders.
  • Taiwan is the only nation included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program that does not maintain formal 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 U.N. … 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 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 the country’s 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.
Under President Tsai Ing-wen’s New Southbound Policy, Taiwan is also striving to broaden exchanges with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand on 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 shared benefits.
Under President Tsai Ing-wen’s New Southbound Policy, Taiwan is also striving to broaden exchanges with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand on 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 has diplomatic relations with 15 countries and substantive ties with many others such as Australia, Canada, EU nations, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S. President Tsai visited diplomatic ally the Kingdom of Eswatini from April 17-21, 2018, for celebrations marking 50 years of independence for the African nation, the 50th birthday of H.M. King Mswati III and 50 years of bilateral ties. From Aug. 12-20 the same year, President Tsai traveled to allies Paraguay and Belize in South and Central America, respectively. During this trip, she attended the inauguration of Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benitez and held bilateral talks with the heads of state of these countries.
From March 21-28, 2019, the president went on her Oceans of Democracy visit to Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands. This followed on from her first trip to the Pacific in October 2017 to the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. President Tsai visited Taiwan’s Caribbean allies Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia on her Journey of Freedom, Democracy, Sustainability from July 11-22. The presidential visit also included U.S. stopovers in New York and Denver.
NEW SOUTHBOUND POLICY
International Participation
Taiwan has full membership in 38 intergovernmental organizations 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 20 IGOs and their subsidiary bodies, including the Inter-American Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and committees of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Taiwan 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 continue to seek participation in intergovernmental organizations and mechanisms such as the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and International Criminal Police Organization to safeguard the people’s welfare and contribute to the advancement of humanity. These efforts have won the staunch support of diplomatic allies and like-minded countries.
As of April 22, 2020, 170 countries and territories have accorded visa-free, landing visa or e-visa privileges to ROC (Taiwan) passport holders. Taiwan has also inked working holiday agreements with 17 countries.
Strong Relations
Notably, among the 38 countries included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, Taiwan is the only one that does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with the United States, highlighting the otherwise close relationship between the two sides. The Taiwan Relations Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979, has continued to provide a strong foundation for Taiwan-U.S. cooperation in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. The U.S. has repeatedly reiterated its security commitments to Taiwan under the TRA and the Six Assurances. In 2018, the Taiwan Travel Act was passed unanimously by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Donald J. Trump. This legislation encourages visits by officials at all levels from the two sides, underscoring the strong support for Taiwan from the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. In 2020, the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act (TAIPEI Act) was also passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Trump, expressing U.S. support for Taiwan’s diplomatic alliances around the world and Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. As Taiwan and the U.S. continue to expand the breadth of their cooperation, their bilateral partnership has grown into one of global cooperation.
The ROC and the Holy See have 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, human rights and the rule of law, Taiwan and the EU, together with other European countries, have developed close cooperation and exchanges across numerous fields. For instance, Taiwan and the EU enjoy strong economic and trade ties, with the EU being Taiwan’s fifth-largest trading partner and largest source of foreign direct investment, and the two sides are increasing cooperation in up-and-coming sectors such as green energy, new technologies and digital transformation. Taiwan and the EU are also expanding cooperation in the field of human rights. Through the annual Taiwan-EU Human Rights Consultations, both sides are working together on topics of mutual concern and interest, including gender equality, LGBTI rights and migrant worker rights.
On April 10, 2013, Taiwan signed a fisheries agreement with Japan after 17 rounds of negotiations since 1996, expanding the fishing grounds of Taiwan vessels in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea. Strong ties between the two sides are underscored by the renaming of Japan’s representative office in Taiwan from the Interchange Association, Japan to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in January 2017, as well as Taiwan’s Association of East Asian Relations to the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association in May 2017.
Taiwan and Japan held their fourth annual meeting on maritime affairs in Taipei Dec. 2, 2019. Staged in accordance with a marine cooperation dialogue mechanism established in 2016, the forum explored opportunities for collaboration across a wide range of areas such as fisheries and research.
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.
On July 19, 2016, President Tsai put forth four principles and five actions pertaining to issues in the South China Sea . The four principles are: Firstly, disputes in the South China Sea should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law and the law of the sea, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Secondly, Taiwan should be included in multilateral mechanisms aimed at resolving disputes. Thirdly, states concerned have an obligation to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the region. Lastly, disputes should be resolved by setting aside differences and promoting joint development. Through negotiations conducted on the basis of equality, Taiwan is willing to work with all states concerned to advance peace and stability in the South China Sea, and to jointly conserve and develop resources in the region. The five actions include safeguarding the country’s fishing rights, participating in multilateral consultations, promoting scientific cooperation and nurturing experts in the law of the sea.
The government is working to transform Taiping Island in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands into a base for humanitarian aid and supplies in the South China Sea. Since assuming responsibility in 2000 for maintaining the government’s presence on Taiping Island as well as the Tungsha (Pratas) Islands, the Coast Guard Administration under the Cabinet-level Ocean Affairs Council has continued to carry out disaster response and humanitarian aid missions and assisted individuals from home and abroad. The CGA is committed to deepening collaboration with its counterparts from neighboring countries in line with the government’s policy of working with all relevant parties to advance peace and stability in the South China Sea.
With an area of 0.51 square kilometers, Taiping Island can sustain human habitation and an economic life of its own. It also meets the criteria of an island as defined in Article 121 of the UNCLOS, affording the ROC full rights associated with territorial waters, a contiguous zone, a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf under UNCLOS.
Win-Win Cooperation
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 investments 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.
Taiwan’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, featuring mandatory quarantines, high-tech contact tracing and transparent sharing of information, is now known globally as the Taiwan Model. Its success has opened the door for the country to collaborate closely with natural allies on coronavirus vaccine development and studies through Academia Sinica—the country’s foremost research institution—and share surgical masks, forehead thermometers, gloves, goggles, gowns, rapid testing kits and other equipment. Agreements with nations the world over regarding donations and exchanges of such essential medical items have generated widespread media coverage, winning the country even more friends abroad.
Changes in society, economic liberalization and democratic transformation in Taiwan have created a fertile environment for the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations have flourished. Civil society today plays a key role in ensuring good governance and enabling Taiwan to exert its soft power in the international arena. NGOs have raised Taiwan’s profile by engaging in various international cooperation projects closely aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.