Taiwan planning to downsize overseas representative offices

Taiwan is planning to close some of its overseas representative offices in an effort to improve the overall efficiency of the country's overseas presence, in response to the diplomatic strategy of the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (???), foreign affairs officials have confirmed.

Foreign Minister David Lee (???) said that his ministry is seeking to reduce the number of its overseas representative offices, saying that fewer than 10 offices will be closed, in response to a lawmaker's questions during a legislative session earlier this week.

The ministry will reach a final decision next week at the earliest, Lee said, stressing that it will adopt a "steady and exhaustive" approach.

Ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (???) said the ministry currently has 117 representative offices around the world.

The downsizing will be carried out in line with the country's diplomatic strategy, she said, noting the need to allocate resources more efficiently.

The government is working to streamline the representative offices, with a goal of setting up an office in Cambodia and a plan to close some offices in the Americas and Europe.

The plan has drawn mixed views.

Former Foreign Minister Francisco Ou (???) said that pragmatism is necessary in conducting diplomacy.

He said he supports the idea of closing representative offices that do not contribute to promoting Taiwan's diplomacy. Taiwan is a mid-sized country and "it does not make sense" that the number of its overseas representative offices surpasses those of some larger countries, he added.

Ou noted that many of Taiwan's representative offices overseas only exist to provide consular services to expatriates living there and do little in the way of diplomatic affairs.

During Ou's tenure as foreign minister from 2008-2009 under the administration of former President Ma Ying-jeou (???), Taiwan closed five overseas representative offices, including the ones in South Africa's Johannesburg and in Venezuela.

That move was made to carry out the then-government's pragmatic diplomatic approach, Ou said. Had it not been for the differing opinions within the ministry at the time, more offices could have been closed, he told CNA.

However, some diplomats have voiced opposition to the downsizing plan, with some of them expressing concern about the possibility of fewer chances for overseas postings in the future.

A senior foreign affairs official, meanwhile, said there is no problem with the number of the offices.

The actual issue lies in the leadership in some of them, he said, adding that some heads of the offices make no efforts to improve Taiwan's relations with their host country.

The ministry should carry out reform to better train the heads of its overseas representative offices, and should not reduce the number of offices, the official said, noting the increasing opportunities for international cooperation in public health, aviation safety and food safety.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel