St. Vincent and the Grenadines is considering its options for consular representation in Taiwan after the two other Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) that formally recognise the Asian nation decided to open their own embassies, rather than a join diplomatic outpost.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sen. Camillo Gonsalves told the media recently that the original posture was that the OECS countries with diplomatic relationships with Taiwan would have a join space, with one rotating ambassador and different consulate staff.
Kitts and Nevis opened an embassy in Taipei in 2007, and St. Lucia announced recently that it will open an embassy in the Asian capital.
“So some of the economics of what was discussed changed, because one country had a different view about the way in which we should go forward. So, it seems now that given some of the changes that happened in terms of representation, changes that happened in other governments that had different views about how this procedure should work, it seems that at this stage, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is going to have to consider opening up its own shop in Taiwan as opposed to having the shared space that was previously discussed,” Gonsalves said.
He said the relationship between Kingstown and Taipei is an important one, but added that his government has a number of channels to contact the Taiwanese government, including Ambassador Baushuan Ger in Kingstown and former Taiwan ambassador to SVG, Weber Shih, who is no head of Taiwan’s development cooperation agency.
“But we have a student population there, they need services, they need consular representation and we believe that there are a number of opportunities with small and medium enterprises in Taiwan that we can explore if we had a more permanent diplomatic space there,” Gonsalves said.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently analysing offers from a number of states that have made concessional offers to us to have a space — maybe an office an office, sometimes and office and a residence, sometimes an office and a residence and a driver, that they would provide for us in exchange for us setting up diplomatic presence in those countries.
“But even with all of the offers, there are costs involved. There are salaries involved, there are supplies involved, phone bills and all the rest of it. So, we are currently doing an analysis of what we can afford to do and meeting that with what our priorities are.
“And when I say priorities, I don’t mean which countries are more important, because we have very few allies more important than Taiwan. But, as I said, we have channels with Taiwan. There are some of these countries we have no channels. And we have to weight, if Finance tells us we can pay two more salaries, where should those two salaries be deployed,” he said.
Gonsalves also said that the issue of visa waivers to Taiwan is being actively discussed.
“We are making some progress there,” he said, adding that he did not want to go into details about where the negotiations stand, but said that Taiwan’s political status in the international community, where some states do not recognise it as an independent nation, is a consideration
“And we are trying to fashion an arrangement that is something more than bilateral, that will give them opportunities to transit other Caribbean states without impediment and without difficulty and that is their primary concern in this arrangement,” Gonsalves said.
“The discussions are underway, I think they are fairly advanced, but what we are trying to do is to ensure that we don’t form an agreement in name only, but that a Taiwanese businessman, businesswoman, tourist runs into trouble coming to a country that is an ally of Mainland China, and for whatever reason things become difficult,” Gonsalves said.