Tsai Courts Central America Against China’s Wishes
Seeking to strengthen bilateral relations, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen set off on an official trip to four of Taiwan’s Central American allies from January 8 to January 15. The journey to Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala was of paramount importance for Taiwan because of China’s ever growing influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.
During her visit to Honduras, President Tsai emphasized Taiwan’s economic cooperation with Honduras and thanked President Juan Orlando Hernandez for being the first to congratulate her on her political victory in 2016. Tsai and Hernandez reaffirmed bilateral ties and promised to take their relationship into a new era.
According to Focus Taiwan, both Tsai and Hernandez hope that Taiwan and Honduras could serve as entry portals for both the Asian and Latin American markets and that a focus on trade will help benefit the people of both nations.
During talks, both sides have discussed new ways of cooperation in the economic sectors of agriculture, tourism, textiles, and agricultural product processing. Taiwan and Honduras have also agreed to expand their existing scholarship program in order to bring more Honduran students to Taiwan and to promote Taiwanese investment in Honduras.
In Nicaragua, Present Tsai attended the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega, who was re-elected for a third consecutive term in November. Along with the inauguration, Tsai met with Nicaragua’s business chamber and discussed greater opportunities for both countries.
Tsai praised the success of the 2006 bilateral trade agreement that has led to rapid growth in trade between the two countries. Both Ortega and Tsai expressed confidence that despite challenges in the international economy, Taiwan and Nicaragua will be able to strengthen their relationship and use each other as a base to import agricultural products and management equipment.
According to China Post, President Ortega has also reaffirmed his country’s support for Taiwan’s participation in United Nations-affiliated organizations.
During her visit to Guatemala, President Tsai met with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to promise continued support for bilateral trade and Guatemala’s highway expansion project. In exchange, President Morales expressed hope that Taiwan will continue to help in the fourth stage of the project, which will greatly improve the transportation system in his country.
According to China Post, President Tsai stated that a delegation of Taiwanese companies will soon visit Guatemala to explore the chance of exporting Guatemalan local coffee.
While visiting El Salvador, President Tsai had a special working meeting with El Salvadorian President Salvador Sanchez Ceren where they announced their intention to strengthen bilateral ties.
In recent years, Taiwan’s relationship with El Salvador has focused primarily on projects that benefit women, schoolchildren, agriculture, health, the environment and small businesses. President Tsai said on her arrival that El Salvador was and will be an important friend of Taiwan, as Reuters reported.
Tsai’s Central American tour was watched closely by China. China does not allow its allies to have official ties with Taiwan and it opposes Taiwan’s participation in intergovernmental organizations.