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Gonsalves questions NDP’s decision to dump Taiwan

Gonsalves questions NDP’s decision to dump Taiwan

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The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will sustain ties with Taiwan not only for the benefits which we have gained, but because of the principle on which our foreign policy plan is based.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made this assertion on Wednesday in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, just one day after the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) announced its foreign policy change.

Gonsalves questioned the motives of Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace in arriving at his decision.{{more}}

“I don’t know whether Eustace’s own political circumstance or that of the NDP prompted them do this. I don’t know if this has anything to do with people who financing them for their economic citizenship programme, I don’t know. But it is just strange that three months ago, you [are] solidly with Taiwan. You not in government, to say you negotiate something with them to put people’s mind at ease. You then proceed to make an announcement there. You either really foolish or you acting in the self-interest of the party and not the country. I am only raising those queries,” he said.

The Prime Minister said while one cannot ignore China’s economic might, its large population and land mass, Taiwan is no ‘fly-by-night’ country and has amassed a great deal of wealth.

Gonsalves explained that the foreign policy of SVG is grounded in both principle and the interest of the people of SVG. “The foreign policy is principled and pragmatic,” he said, adding that while there are no permanent friends, there is some sense of loyalty.

“You still must show gratitude…. For 35 years the relations have been pretty good. I don’t see the reason now to break them, particularly since it’s not like the conflicts which existed in yesteryear between Taiwan and mainland China,” he outlined.

The Prime Minister also explained that while we have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, SVG does conduct trade with the People’s Republic of China. He disclosed that there are nationals of mainland China here who have been granted work and residency permits and operate restaurants and stores.

Gonsalves also re-stated a point made by Eustace on Tuesday, that China is also a non-borrowing member of the Caribbean Development Bank, from which money is borrowed by SVG for many national projects.

Giving examples, the Prime Minister said the Dr JP Eustace Memorial Secondary and the West St George Secondary schools were built by a company from mainland China with money from the CDB.

He also referred the OCC, a construction company from Taiwan, which built the terminal building at Argyle and the National Public Library building.

“You can’t ignore mainland China, but it doesn’t mean that you have to abandon Taiwan.”

He further pointed out that nearly half of Taiwan’s foreign investments are in mainland China and there is great deal of trade between the two. “China is Taiwan’s major trading partner now. China and the United States are the two major trading partners for Taiwan.

“So, in a context where there is rapprochement across the Taiwan straits, why should a small country which has had very good relations with Taiwan want to make the shift? Those are the practical considerations against the principled background. We can maintain our relations with Taiwan without in anyway speaking adversely about mainland China,” he added.

Gonsalves also disclosed that at present, SVG owes Taiwan $89 million in soft loans, which would be in jeopardy should SVG cut ties with Taiwan.

But this, he said, would not be his first consideration should this country break ties with Taiwan.

“If we are to break relations with Taiwan, the first set of things I have to be concerned about is what arrangements do I have to make for the 80 students who are in Taiwan,” the Prime Minister remarked.

He explained that while Taiwan would not just throw the students out of the universities in Taiwan, he would be then tasked with finding the $25 million to pay the schools’ tuitions.

Gonsalves also noted that annually SVG receives $2.5 million for the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) programme, which employs roughly 500 persons. “What’s gonna happen to them? Have you made alternative arrangements? Those would be questions which would come up?”

While Taiwan assists in many national projects, the Prime Minister observed that SVG can always rely on Taiwan for assistance during a natural disaster.

“They would come immediately with resources to help you. Like, for instance, the last disaster. Immediately they said ‘here is $200,000 to help you with your shelters’ and then they say ‘look this is the money for a bridge at Basin Hole, this is the money for a bride in Colonarie and so on and so forth,” he said.

Within CARICOM, only five countries have maintained diplomatic ties with Taiwan, while nine have forged relationships with China.

Gonsalves, however, noted that while more countries have ties with China, more persons have relations with Taiwan. (CM)

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