|Taiwan's representative in Amman Alfred Chen says 'democracy is the best language for dialogue'
|Interview with Alfred K Chen, the representative of the Commercial Office of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Amman.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Alfred K Chen is the representative of the Commercial Office of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Amman. Mr Chen spoke about Taiwan's economic development in its relations to the different countries in the South-East Asia region and globally. Excerpts follow:
How do you characterize Jordan-Taiwan relations at the present time?
The relations between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Republic of China (Taiwan) are firmly tied by the traditional friendship through the variety of technical cooperation in many different fields. For instance, Taiwan has contributed in some of the development projects in Jordan for more than 30 years. Taiwan annually provides many training courses to the developing countries, in which the Jordanian friends are invited to participate in the field of economic planning and development. There are quite a big number of Jordanian technicians who had benefited so far from these training courses in Taiwan. By the encouragement of my government, the Taiwanese capital of investments have been gradually flowing into Jordan in recent years, several companies have already started operating and exporting their products, for which not only they provided job opportunities but also helped to earn the much needed foreign exchanges for the Jordanian people and government. I am confident that having the cordial relations as close as mentioned above, the friendship of our two countries will certainly be enhanced further in the days ahead.
How do you see the role of Taiwan in the South-East Asia?
Since South East Asia has become a globally economic region, Taiwan has promoted the "go south" policy of investment in South East Asia to enhance economic ties and mutual interests with the region.
To promote economic links, Taiwan has signed agreements on the protection of investments, avoidance of double taxation, customs cooperation, agriculture cooperation, technical cooperation, tourism cooperation, and aviation rights with most of the nations of South East Asia.
In order to strengthen its comprehensive exchanges with various countries, Taiwan will continue to focus on expanding substantive relations in trade, culture, and technology through regular channels and mutual visits by high-ranking government officials.
In addition, as the Association Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expanding its membership and moving to promote regional trade, Taiwan is seeking closer contacts and bilateral relations with most of the members of ASEAN through collective contacts in APEC and other venues. The eventual goal is to become an ASEAN dialogue partner and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum political dialogue.
Can you talk about Taiwan's relations with China?
Since his inauguration in May 2000, our President Chen Shui-bien has actively promoted policies aimed at fostering goodwill and liberalizing relations between Taiwan and China. Taiwan has also taken concrete steps to normalize trade relations with China. The opening of the "Three Small Links"-direct transportation, postal services, and trade between China and Taiwan's offshore islands of Kinmen and Matsu-is a good example.
To facilitate private exchange between Taiwan and China, the government has also implemented several policies for the convenience of the people on both sides, such as opening Taiwan to PRC tourists and permitting Chinese journalists to cover news in Taiwan.
Last year, there were 3.43 million Taiwanese visitors to China. In addition, Taiwan investments on Mainland China have reached $100 billion. The above facts have clearly expressed the goodwill of Taiwan government and people toward China. Unfortunately, Beijing has chosen to ignore Taiwan's friendly overtures and has yet to offer any concrete response.
We believe that a stable and democratic China is in the world's best interest. We also believe democracy is the best language for the Taiwan-China dialogue, and by working together, Taiwan and China have the potential to make greater contributions towards peace and stability, to benefit of not only the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
How is your economy doing now?
In 2001, Taiwan has experienced a serious economic recession and registered negative growth (-1.9 percent) for the first time in 50 years. But from the beginning of this year our economy is improving, though slowly. According to statistics from January to August our industrial production increased 5.7 percent compared to the same period of last year. From January to August our foreign trade total volume reached $156.6 billion, this sum increased 1.0 percent compared to the same period last year. Our export volume is $842 billion and import volume $724 billion, we enjoyed trade surplus $11.8 billion. If global and US economy could be stable in the second half of this year our government predicts a 2.5 percent economic growth in 2002.
Is IT still your largest export?
IT products still play a big role in our export. IT related products approximately occupy one third of our export. For example, from January to August we exported IT products around $28 billion. Some IT products we produced, such as IC Chip, Notebook, and CD-R, which separately occupies No 1 in the world market.
Therefore, IT industry is still very important for us.