2002 / 11月
Chang Chin-ju /tr. by Phil Newell
On October 26, Lee Yuan-tseh, president of the Academia Sinica, attended the APEC informal summit of leaders held on October 26 in Los Cabos, Mexico as the representative of ROC president Chen Shui-bian. Lee made the first-ever address by a Taiwan representative at APEC, directly invited former PRC Premier Jiang Zemin to visit Taiwan, and spoke directly with US president George W. Bush, who was seated next to him at the conference. In addition, at the APEC ministerial conference held earlier, ROC minister of economic affairs Lin Yi-fu held bilateral discussions with numerous countries. Last year, it will be recalled, the PRC raised many procedural obstacles to Taiwan's representatives, causing the ROC to withdraw its delegation in protest. But this year, despite some persisting differences of outlook between Taiwan and the mainland, Taiwan's APEC representative team accomplished its mission without friction.
Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh, representing President Chen Shui-bian at this year's APEC informal conference of leaders, was invited to address the corporate leaders' meeting. In his address he emphasized that there are still many countries with a low level of development which are marginalized in the world economy. As a newly industrialized country, Taiwan has learned a great deal in its process of development. Its experience can be helpful for countries at a low level of development, and Taiwan is very willing to share this experience and to help these countries.
Lee's marketing of the "Taiwan experience" marked the first time in a decade that the "lead representative" from Taiwan was invited to make an address at an APEC meeting. Although these were simply introductory marks, and more symbolically than substantially important, they marked a new step forward in Taiwan's efforts to participate in international organizations.
This is particularly the case given that mainland China generally takes the opportunity afforded by the annual APEC meetings to diminish Taiwan's status. Last year at the APEC conference held in Shanghai, the mainland, as the host country, took a variety of obstructive measures, inciting protests from the Taiwan side. Although this year's meeting site was far removed from Asia, the ROC side remained very cautious in order to avoid misfires. For example, in order to avoid obstruction from the PRC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs divulged no information about leader-level bilateral meetings arranged for outside the conference site.
This year, Lee Yuan-tseh, buttressed by his fame as a Nobel Prize winner and his frequent advice to the mainland Chinese academic community, was able to represent President Chen at the APEC meeting without any friction, and was treated with due courtesy. During the two-day conference, Lee was able to complete the diplomatic missions which President Chen entrusted to him. These included expressing Taiwan's support for the US anti-terrorism campaign to President Bush, inviting Jiang Zemin to Taiwan, and expressing to other countries Taiwan's earnest desire to strengthen economic exchange and cooperation.
However, while Lee was a success, inevitably there was still backstage maneuvering for position. It came out after the conference that, as a result of intensive PRC lobbying, both the timing and subject of Lee's address were altered.
Moreover, before the departure of the ROC team for Mexico, the Taiwan side indicated that it would seek an opportunity to discuss direct links with mainland China, and moreover that the PRC would be one of the countries with which the ROC delegation would arrange bilateral talks. However, at the conference PRC foreign ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue said that APEC, as an international conference, was not the place to discuss the question of whether Taiwan is its own country or to undertake bilateral discussions or talks about direct cross-strait links.
Responding to this, ROC vice minister of economic affairs Yin Chi-ming stated at the conference that the two sides had in fact already undertaken partial bilateral talks, such as bilateral discussions between himself and the PRC representative at the energy ministers' conference in Mexico, and that it was precisely under the APEC structure that the two sides could engage in interaction without restriction.
Besides these efforts to engage mainland China, before the formal opening of the APEC ministerial conference, ROC minister of economic affairs Lin Yi-fu held bilateral talks successively with the US, Mexico, Vietnam, Chile, Indonesia, New Zealand, and other countries. Taiwan agreed to provide the US with a report on measures it is taking to protect intellectual property rights, in order to reduce pressure from the American business community. During discussions with the assistant US trade representative, Taiwan agreed to support new US proposals under the APEC structure including the idea for "APEC regional trade security."
APEC had previously been limited to discussion of economic and trade issues, and very rarely touched upon sensitive political or military topics. But in the wake of 911, this year APEC became a forum for the US to lobby the international community on its anti-terror campaign. The leaders' meeting issued a collective anti-terrorism communiqu? and criticized recent terror attacks in the Asia-Pacific region, especially those in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Russia. Earlier, at the ministerial level meeting, one of the tasks was to discuss how to undertake anti-terrorism activities without affecting economic development.
In addition, at the ministerial level meeting, countries discussed implementation of last year's Shanghai accord. Participants also agreed to add a special article on "strengthening the rule of law infrastructure" to the Osaka action program. They also combined a number of preliminary ideas covering a variety of subjects-including the approval and implementation of an amended Kyoto Protocol; creation of a travelers' information priority reporting system; electronic verification of quarantine inspection; electronic verification of product country of origin; corporate governance; and so on-in a report that was approved by the ministerial conference. At the senior officials' conference which ended on the 22nd, the various countries unanimously agreed that APEC members will support a new round of WTO trade talks to be completed by New Year's Day 2005 on the basis of the timetable set under the Doha Development Agenda.
As Lee Yuan-tseh stated, APEC is not a place for political battles nor a place to resolve substantive problems. It is a place to see whether various countries are able to make a contribution to international society. If they take this as their goal, perhaps the participating countries can regain their economic vitality and collectively get through the current economic winter.
At the APEC banquet hosted by Mexican President Fox on the 26th, Dr. and Mrs. Lee Yuan-tseh were neighbors with US President Bush and his wife. (courtesy of GIO)