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Taiwan seeks closer bilateral relations with New Zealand

In the past 103 years since the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC) (Taiwan), its path has not been entirely smooth, to say the least.

In 1949, the Kuomintang (KMT) Party lost to the Communist Party and the ROC retreated to Taiwan.

Though efforts were made to retake the mainland at the time, eventually even more was accomplished in the land we all call home.

In 1987, constitutional normality was restored as our longstanding Martial Law was abolished, allowing us to take the first step towards a true democracy and an open door economy. In 1996, the first direct elections were held in Taiwan.

Ever since, our people used their votes to shape our future, which has contributed to forming the new chapters of our nation’s history.

Mature Democracy

I would also like to mention that in 2000, the opposition party at the time, the Democratic Progressive Party, defeated KMT to complete our nation’s first peaceful regime change, establishing the roots of our current de facto two-party system.

Seeing that two regime changes were completed peacefully, Taiwan’s democracy has become mature. Our people understand and cherish the values of democracy.

Export Promotion

In terms of economic development, since the 1960s, Taiwan has pursued an export promotion scheme, which has resulted in an extremely high foreign trade growth rate.

Because of the staggering rise of foreign trade, the ROC has become one of the world’s major trading countries. As at the end of December 2013, our foreign exchange reserves were US$ 414.5 billion, the seventh largest in the world. In the past five years, Taiwan’s average economic growth rate has been 2.9%, higher than Korea.

Rise in PPP

In accordance with the data released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Taiwan’s

GDP per capita based on Purchasing Power Parity (GDP-PPP) came to about US$ 40,000 in 2013, which gives the country a rank of 16 out of 187 countries.

The World Economic Forum has praised the outstanding economic performance of the ROC and its ability to maintain economic stability for the past five years with steady growth.

Three ‘Nos’

Since the inauguration of President Ma’s term as President in May 2008, Cross-Strait relations have improved under the Policy of ‘Cross Strait Rapprochement,’ which contains a ‘Three No’ policy of “No unification, No independence, and No use of force” under the ROC Constitution and is geared towards putting the economy before politics.

These policies have facilitated increased cooperation across the Strait, brining fresh optimism for peace and stability in our region.

Milestone Agreement

Since then, more than 20 Cross-Strait Agreements have been signed, the most notable of which is the ‘Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement’ (ECFA).

It is a milestone of cross-strait economic relations. The closer ties have gradually increased the regular contact between the people of the two sides.

Up to now, there are 119 scheduled flights daily to and from the Chinese mainland (828 flights per week).

Taiwan hopes that the improved Cross-Strait relations and stable interaction between the two sides would help create opportunities and incentives for tighter economic relations with other nations.

Viable Diplomacy

While lowering Cross-Strait tensions with the policy of rapprochement, the government of the ROC also executes a policy of viable diplomacy and terminates the previous detrimental checkbook diplomacy. Together, the two policies have opened doors to trade agreements with other countries and increased international goodwill towards Taiwan.

For instance, bilateral relations between Taiwan and New Zealand have been further promoted and strengthened over the past five years. In consequence, the two countries signed an Economic Cooperation Agreement titled ‘ANZTEC’ on July 10, 2013.

Both sides believed that this pact would facilitate mutually beneficial economic co-operation and good for bilateral and regional trade.

‘ANZTEC’ came into force in December 2013.

Trade boost

One of the evidence to support the two countries’ belief is that in the first five months of it entering into force, New Zealand exports to Taiwan rose by more than 30%, and Taiwan exports to New Zealand increased by more than 20%. Since trade flows both ways have increased significantly as a result of the agreement, there is a lot to celebrate. Between January and June this year, Taiwan’s top eight exports to New Zealand enjoyed double-digit growth. New Zealand is also benefiting from this high-level free-trade agreement as it generated nearly NZ$40 million tariff savings to date.

I am confident that we will see many more New Zealanders visiting and doing much more businesses with Taiwan.

ANZTEC shows that the ROC is actively opening up its domestic market and is determined to participate in regional economic integration.

Next, the nation strongly wishes to contribute to further cooperation in the Pacific by joining Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) of which New Zealand was one of the initiating members. It is believed that such agreements would be beneficial to all participating countries.

World Health Meet

Since May 2008, we have been invited each year as an observer to the World Health Assembly, the WHA, under the designation ‘Chinese Taipei.’ In addition, the US Federal, some State congresses, and the European Union Congress have supported meaningful participation of Taiwan in UN groups such as UNFCCC and ICAO.

It is encouraging to see that Taiwan’s authorities have put a lot of effort to implement aviation safety, security and environmental measures that are consistent with international standards and recommended practices.

Civil Aviation Meet

ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez invited our Civil Aeronautic Administration (CAA) to attend the Triennial Assembly held from September 24 to October 4, 2013 in Montreal, Canada as guests under the designation ‘Chinese Taipei.’

The invitation is a way for ICAO members to express their interest in Taiwan’s participation in ICAO activities.

It is our hope that our Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) would be able to meaningfully participate in the sessions of Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC as an observer in the near future. This would enable Taiwan to share relevant information more effectively with the international community. International goodwill can also be seen in the instance where the number of countries and territories that allow Taiwanese citizens to enter without a visa increased substantially from 54 to 110. This increased the convenience of our people to travel or do business abroad.

Moreover, the ROC maintains strong diplomatic relations with 22 countries. These are only some of the demonstrable results that affirm President Ma’s policy of Viable Diplomacy.

ROC-NZ Ties

Taipei Economic & Cultural Office (TECO) in Auckland and our Representative Office in Wellington work together to further improve not only our two nation’s economic cooperation, but also cultural, arts and educational exchanges.

It has partly been fulfilled by interesting and meaningful movie events like ‘Dynamic Taiwan in Film’ (Life of Pi) held on April 13, 2013 by this Office.

Through movies we get to know more about a country and its culture. Just like the opening night film of this year’s New Zealand Taiwan Film Festival “Beyond Beauty, Taiwan from Above.”

This award-winning aerial photography documentary film not only features the country’s varied landscapes and rich biodiversity, but also reflects the state of its environment, giving the audience some broader aspects of the nation.

Cultural exchanges

Apart from movie events, international cultural and artistic exchanges can also be enhanced through art exhibitions. This is one of the reasons that this Office offers strong support for art events such as this year’s ‘Da Dun Fine Arts Exhibition’ and ‘Treasures from the heart of Taiwan Exhibition’ held in Auckland and Whangarei respectively.

Both exhibitions received high praise and positive and appreciative comments.

We are confident that these events would provide opportunities to strengthen mutual understanding between the people of both countries.

Educational exchanges

In respect of educational exchange, it is worth mentioning that early this year TECO Auckland took the initiative in making arrangements for four young New Zealand athletes to study and hone their baseball skills in Taiwan through the Scholarship Programme offered by Taiwan universities.

It was a first for both countries. We hope that this would make a way for more young Kiwis to be motivated to follow suit. Educational exchanges bring more collaboration in education and increase business, cultural, diplomatic and research links.

Active Taiwanese

Besides the representative from Taiwan, Taiwanese here in New Zealand are also actively putting efforts to get involved with New Zealand society. One of the many evidences is that to date four ambulances had been donated to St John New Zealand in response to its appeal. The fifth ambulance will be handed over next year.

Lincoln Ting is Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office based in Auckland. The above was his address (modified slightly) at the celebrations held on October 3, 2014 at Crowne Plaza Hotel to mark the 103rd Anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China (Taiwan) celebrated on October 10.

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