San Salvador-President Tsai Ing-wen (???) said while in El Salvador on Friday that Taiwan will shift away from one-way assistance to its diplomatic allies to a two-way model of bilateral cooperation to help their economic and social development.
At a breakfast with Taiwanese reporters traveling with her, Tsai said Taiwan should think about promoting diplomacy in new ways, including focusing on bilateral cooperation rather than simply providing aid to allies.
The president said that on her tour of four of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, which ended in El Salvador, she found that the countries are hoping to boost their economic development following a long period of political turmoil.
The Central American countries are also making an effort to improve infrastructure, education and public health, she said, noting that Honduras has sent many delegations to learn more about Taiwan's national health insurance program and other social welfare systems.
Bilateral cooperation should also entail strengthening bilateral trade and expanding market presences, Tsai said, after concluding during her visit that promoting cooperation in a market-oriented direction can create mutually beneficial results.
There may be opportunities for cooperation between Taiwan and its Central and South American allies, for example, in taking advantage of the South and Central American, North American and Asian markets, the president said.
The visit was Tsai's second overseas trip since she took office in May 2016. She visited Panama and Paraguay last June.
At Friday's breakfast, Tsai said that after the two visits, her government will propose a new trade policy for the region in an effort to base bilateral diplomatic ties on stronger trade exchanges.
In the future, she said, Taiwan will organize visits by Taiwanese industry and market experts and business delegations to Central America to explore investment and trade opportunities.
The president also noted the importance of talent and expressed her hope to increase Taiwanese scholarships for students from its diplomatic allies to study in Taiwan.
Taiwan is also planning to encourage Taiwanese youth to work with foreign youth to set up start-up companies, she said.
The president said her administration will continue to provide assistance in infrastructure and public health to its allies and will also seek a feasible commercial model of cooperation on infrastructure projects.
In response to questions on concerns that Taiwan might become a bargaining chip in the relationship between the United States and China, Tsai said she had heard the view, but did not seem worried.
"I feel that we are able to deal with such things, and will put Taiwan's interests first," she said.
Asked about Nigeria's recent demand that Taiwan move its trade office there from the country's capital, Abuja, to its largest city, Lagos, apparently under pressure from Beijing, Tsai said it was not conducive to the development of cross-Taiwan Strait ties.
She urged China to rethink its current strategy and whether it is helpful for cross-strait stability and regional peace.
The president was also asked about the issue of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega modifying the country's constitution to pave the way for his re-election to a third consecutive term.
She responded that she would not comment on other countries' domestic politics, but did say she hoped trade cooperation with Taiwan will help diplomatic allies promote economic and social development, and by extension improve democracy in those countries.
Following the visit to El Salvador, Tsai arrived in San Francisco later Friday for a stopover en route home. She is scheduled to return to Taiwan on Jan. 15.
Tsai's Central American visit is aimed at consolidating ties with Taiwan's diplomatic allies in that region and comes after the small West African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan on Dec. 20, 2016 in favor of ties with China.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel