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Vincentian diplomat Camillo Gonsalves, centre, exchanges greetings with Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou in Taipei on Wednesday (Photo:CNA).

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Vincentians will soon hear the details of the outcome of negotiations between their ambassador to the United Nations, Camillo Gonsalves, and government officials here.

Gonsalves is among three ambassadors from countries with diplomatic relations with Taiwan holding talks with the government here on the future of Taiwan-China relations and bilateral cooperation on the heels of President Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election in January.

The Vincentian envoy held discussion with Ma and Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang in separate meetings on Wednesday. In addition to Ma’s approach to Taiwan’s relationship with China – which considers the island a renegade province – they also discussed Taiwan’s work on the international airport under construction in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and other bilateral matters relating to the country.

“You will hear announcements in the very near future about new areas of cooperation in agriculture, in micro credit to farmers,” Gonsalves said in an I-Witness News/iMaculate iMagez interview on Wednesday.

“Well, I don’t want to steal any of the minister’s thunder on these matters but we have furthered some new agreements in those areas and discussed new ways in which Taiwan and St. Vincent and the Grenadines can partner,” he further stated.

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He mentioned additional scholarship, assistance with renewable energy, and training in information communication technology.

Gonsalves also met with the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which handles Taipei-Beijing relations. The MAC is seeking the assistance of Taiwan’s allies to secure greater participation in U.N. processes on climate change, the World health Assembly and other international bodies.

The central purpose ambassadorial delegation’s visit was for Ma to brief them on his cross-strait relationship policies. The delegation includes a representative from The Gambia and the Dominican Republic.

“The previous administration, under President Chen [Shui-bian] had a more confrontational approach when it came to cross-strait relations,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said that during the Chen year, SVG and all of Taiwan’s allies were at the forefront of calling for Taiwan’s independence.

“President Ma had a different approach. He wanted what he calls variable diplomacy and has a more conciliatory approach to China.”

With the Taiwanese people having approved, via the election, the change in policy, Ma wanted to discuss with the diplomats “his interpretation of the election result — what it meant for the future of cross-strait relations, and how he would like his allies to assist him in the implementation of this variable diplomacy”.

Gonsalves highlighted the differences between advocating on Taiwan’s behalf under the Chen and Ma administrations.

We will go to the general assembly, we will bang the table and we will say Taiwan has to be part of this assembly. But now, President Ma’s approach is far more subtle and far more nuanced.

“So we have to have a consistent engagement with the international community to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to participate more meaningfully.”

During the meeting, Ms also stressed that he values Taiwan’s relationship with its allies even more now and that all previous commitments would be honoured in the same manner. Ma also mentioned the tacit agreement between Beijing and Taipei not to try to woo each other’s allies, Gonsalves said.

“It is not anything that the Chinese and the Taiwanese have written down, but they are trying to build trust with each other at this moment. And we appreciate that because, clearly, Taiwan and China, the cross-strait relations is a potential flashpoint for violence and President Ma has decided to take a long view that it is now time that those two countries must build trust with one another.”

Gonsalves therefore said that the allies do not anticipate a continuation of the gamesmanship in which each state tries to woo the other’s allies.

Ma told the diplomats that just as Taiwan is engaged in business with mainland China, he would not feel slighted if the allies do the same.

“But he also made it clear that we are even more important than we were before because in this rapprochement, he has to maintain the fact that Taiwan has international friends and allies that recognise it. Because, in the negotiations that they engage in, Taiwan has to negotiate from a position of strength. And we, as allies of Taiwan, are part for that strength that they have.”

Australian scholarships coming

Gonsalves’ visit to Taiwan comes two weeks after a similar trip to Australia. He said that the outcome of that visit would be announced through the appropriate government channels.

“… there is a scholarship programme in place where Vincentian students who are accepted to Australian universities are entitled to have their tuition, their board, and their transportation paid for by the Australian government,” he, however, offered.

He said Australia is trying to sensitise the international community about the work it is doing in peacekeeping and peach building and the furtherance of sustainable development. The country also inquired about SVG’s recovery after Hurricane Tomas in October 2010.

Gonsalves also laid the groundwork for further visit by higher officials from the SVG government.

“We are in the Commonwealth. We share values, we share language, we share cricket, we share all kinds of things but we have not been as strong allies as we could be. So part of it was fact finding, part of it was Australia introducing itself to parts of the world that it doesn’t traditionally deal with and part of it was sort of putting down the marker, that we would like to see stronger relationships,” Gonsalves said.

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