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Viable Diplomacy makes Taiwan a global nation

President Ma Ying-jeau of the Republic of China (ROC) has been concerting efforts on fostering peace and stability through viable diplomacy.

Working on the basis of mutual trust, his Government has implemented a raft of pragmatic cultural, economic and trade policies.

The first step in this process began with improving cross-strait relations. Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have restricted Taiwan’s ability to participate substantively in the international community. The only way forward was to address the root of the problem by engaging with mainland China on the principles of ‘no independence, no unification and no use of force.’

Pact with potential

Such an approach has delivered handsome dividends for both sides. More than two years of negotiations paid off with the signing of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement on June 21, 2013. The Agreement called for opening the cross-strait market to services in many sectors, marking a new milestone in the realisation of Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2009.

Services constitute one of the pillars supporting Taiwan’s economy, with the expansion of service exports set to boost economic growth. About 70% of Taiwan’s Gross Domestic Product (calculated by production) is contributed by services, while it is less than 50% in mainland China.

The Agreement gives Taiwanese service providers access to preferential treatment that in some cases exceeds mainland China’s World Trade Organisation commitments, facilitating expansion of operating scope and economic scale.

Growing benefits

Foreign companies that are in Taiwan for three consecutive years (five years for construction and finance firms) can enjoy preferential treatment in the mainland Chinese market.

President Ma took office in May 2008 and since them, Taipei and Beijing have restored institutionalised negotiations and as of June this year, 19 Agreements and two Consensuses are in place.

Talk Time

Talks resumed in March 2013 under the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

IN August 2012, President Ma proposed to address rising tensions over the Diaoyutais, a group of five uninhabited volcanic islets and three rocks located about 102 nautical miles northeast of Keelung in the East China Sea. The Diaoyutais are an inherent part of the ROC territory, but are claimed by Japan and mainland China. The proposal called on all parties involved to shelve sovereignty disputes in favor of jointly developing and sharing the area’s natural resources.

Fisheries Future

The success of the initiative was evident on April 10, 2013 when a new Fisheries Agreement with Japan was announced, allowing Taiwanese fishermen to operate without interference from Japan in an area they had long considered a traditional fishing ground. Signed in Taipei by Taiwan’s Association of East Asian Relations and Japan’s Interchange Association, the pact safeguards the rights of Taiwanese fishermen to operate unimpeded near the Diaoyutais, known as Senkakus in Japan.

Growing Global Ties

The ROC’s determination to build closer links throughout the world was on show from August 12 to 21, 2013 during Ma’s 12-day state visit to South America and four Caribbean nations. His visit succeeded in boosting bilateral relations and showed that the country will continue as a responsible provider of foreign aid while consolidating relations with its diplomatic allies and partners.

Ma’s state visits were made in the same spirit as his trip in March this year to attend the inaugural mass of Pope Francis at the Vatican. This was the first time that a ROC President attended such a ceremony since the country established formal ties with the Vatican 71 years ago.

Several Pacts

The ROC government has signed bilateral agreements with nine countries that allow young Taiwanese and their foreign counterparts to travel and work in each other’s countries. As of May 2013, agreements were in place with Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and UK.

The ROC stands ready to shine on the international stage as it endeavors to play the role of peace facilitator in the Taiwan Strait and East and South China seas. The country is increasingly seen as a calming influence in East Asia, with viable diplomacy and improved cross-strait relations putting the building blocks in place for Taiwan’s expanded engagement with the world.

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