The Year Ahead: SAINT LU­CIA AND TAI­WAN’S PATH TO STRONGER TIES

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - FRONT PAGE - BY ED KENNEDY, STAR BUSINESSWEEK COR­RE­SPON­DENT

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Saint Lu­cia and the Re­pub­lic of China (here­after re­ferred to as Tai­wan) is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to both na­tions. As 2018 nears its end, the past 11 months have seen closer ties pur­sued across mul­ti­ple fronts. At the same time, it ap­pears clear that it’s not the past but the road ahead that will be the most im­por­tant for the re­la­tion­ship. Es­pe­cially as 2019 will see both na­tions shift fur­ther into new iden­ti­ties glob­ally.

DEEP LINKS BE­YOND ECO­NOM­ICS

Saint Lu­cia and Tai­wan not only share a strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship — hav­ing no­tably part­nered on the Ba­nana Black Si­ga­toka Man­age­ment Pro­ject (BSMP) in re­cent years — but deep ties be­yond eco­nom­ics. It’s easy to dis­miss these as in­ci­den­tal if fo­cus­ing on the bal­ance sheet be­tween Taipei and Cas­tries alone, but ul­ti­mately they ac­count for big dif­fer­ences be­tween how Saint Lu­cia can pur­sue a re­la­tion­ship with Tai­wan in a way it would strug­gle to do so with Bei­jing and the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China (here­after re­ferred to as China).

Saint Lu­cia at 616 sq km with 179,000 res­i­dents and Tai­wan at 35,980 sq km with 23 mil­lion are both rel­a­tively small is­land na­tions com­pared to sur­round­ing states. Each re­sents the idea of for­eign in­ter­fer­ence in its na­tional life, with Taipei nat­u­rally re­gard­ing Bei­jing’s gov­er­nance of China as the big­gest is­sue in their for­eign pol­icy, and each seeks a fu­ture that re­lies on greater en­gage­ment with the global econ­omy.

Saint Lu­cia is an im­porter of cus­tomers and com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity, at present chiefly within the tourism and fi­nance sec­tor. Tai­wan is an ex­porter of ma­chin­ery and elec­tron­ics. Each can of­fer the other ex­per­tise in these spheres.

Tai­wan is among the world’s global lead­ers in tech and emerg­ing in­dus­try.

Saint Lu­cia’s has ben­e­fit­ted from this in its drive to­wards greater digi­ti­sa­tion and con­nec­tivit; the Gov­ern­ment Is­land­wide Net­work (GINet) Pro­ject rolled out ear­lier this year was funded, in part, by the Tai­wanese gov­ern­ment.

Tai­wanese tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise is also be­ing utilised in the re­de­vel­op­ment of He­wanorra In­ter­na­tional Air­port. For over 20 years the air­port has been ear­marked for up­grade, with a num­ber of at­tempted starts stalling along the way. Just as tourism is a cor­ner­stone of Saint Lu­cia’s econ­omy, the in­fra­struc­ture up­grade seeks to de­liver an air­port that would fa­cil­i­tate the na­tional goal of dou­bling the is­land’s room stock over the next fif­teen years.

In turn, as Au­gust also saw Cas­tries and

Taipei form a sis­ter city agree­ment on the mu­nic­i­pal level, it is hoped the air­port’s ex­pected open­ing in Q3 of 2020 will not only boost tourism but also see an even greater in­crease in the flow of peo­ple and re­sources be­tween the two cap­i­tal cities.

Con­versely, as 2018 has seen Bei­jing up the pres­sure on Taipei in­ter­na­tion­ally, the need for Tai­wan to mar­ket a strong in­ter­na­tional brand and gen­er­ate global in­ter­est on the lives and cul­ture of all Tai­wanese has never been more cru­cial. Suc­cess here means that de­spite Bei­jing’s ef­forts to di­min­ish the dif­fer­ence, the global con­scious­ness of the Tai­wanese cause and its dis­tinc­tive cul­ture will re­tain a high pro­file glob­ally.

THE BEI­JING EQUA­TION

Tai­wan’s re­la­tion­ship with Saint Lu­cia and the world at large will al­ways be in­formed by its sta­tus along­side Bei­jing. Since tak­ing of­fice in Novem­ber 2012, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s ten­ure has not only seen ten­sions flare with Taipei, but also in Hong Kong sur­round­ing the ter­ri­tory’s right to elect its own lo­cal lead­ers.

In 2014 the CPC held “time [is] on its side” and that, ac­cord­ingly, it would ig­nore West­ern over­tures on the dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries of Ti­bet and Xin­jiang. These on­go­ing ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes, when met with stern re­sis­tance from Bei­jing, give rise to the risk of an­other out­break of in­sta­bil­ity. De­spite Xi’s strong­man image, the CPC recog­nises that China’s econ­omy must keep grow­ing lest it risk the Party’s grip on power.

How it man­ages these ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes, in­clud­ing with Tai­wan, will be crit­i­cal to its re­la­tions with West­ern na­tions. The out­break of an­other Tianan­men Square-style cri­sis — as hor­ri­fy­ing as the idea is to con­sider — would also de­liver a knock-on ef­fect, one that could not only see Bei­jing iso­lated, but re­newed sym­pa­thy for the cause of Tai­wanese in­de­pen­dence.

THE QUES­TION OF CHEQUEBOOK DIPLO­MACY

Saint Lu­cian ties with Tai­wan are strong, and 2018 has seen them deepen fur­ther. Ef­forts to grow the re­la­tion­ship have not been one way; while Tai­wan has in­vested heav­ily in Saint Lu­cia, so too has Cas­tries’ open­ing of an em­bassy in Tai­wan in 2015 — Saint Lu­cia’s first in Asia — shown a mu­tu­al­ity. What’s more, it is not only cul­tur­ally but po­lit­i­cally that Saint Lu­cia finds far more in com­mon with Taipei than it ever could (in present cir­cum­stances) with the CPC’s au­thor­i­tar­ian rule in Bei­jing.

This not­with­stand­ing, the ef­forts by the CPC to have na­tions switch recog­ni­tion of China’s right­ful gov­ern­ment from Taipei to Bei­jing have been ro­bust over the past year, with Do­minica and El Sal­vador switch­ing sides ear­lier in 2018.

For Saint Lu­cians who wish to see the re­la­tion­ship main­tained with Taipei, the re­al­ity of Bei­jing’s eco­nomic growth and ca­pac­ity to pro­vide sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment is im­mense, even if his­tory shows such in­vest­ment has at times come with big caveats or a fail­ure to de­liver.

For those who con­tend the Taipei-Bei­jing re­la­tion­ship will al­ways ul­ti­mately be one of chequebook diplo­macy, 2019 and be­yond will place a new pres­sure on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Taipei and Cas­tries.

THE NEXT CHAP­TER: THE 11TH AN­NUAL ST. LU­CIA-TAI­WAN PART­NER­SHIP TRADESHOW

The ad­van­tage of on­go­ing re­la­tion­ships is fa­mil­iar­ity; that, as time pro­gresses, part­ners come to bet­ter know each other, un­der­stand each other and iden­tify com­mon path­ways for progress. This is true of the evolv­ing links be­tween Saint Lu­cia and Tai­wan.

Fol­low­ing hot on the heels of a Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet-led Saint Lu­cian del­e­ga­tion’s visit to Tai­wan in Oc­to­ber, the 11th an­nual Saint Lu­cia-Tai­wan Part­ner­ship Tradeshow, to be held Novem­ber 23rd to Novem­ber 25th at the Golden Palm Events Cen­tre in Rod­ney Heights, is the next great event in this re­la­tion­ship. It will also seek to build upon the ground­work laid ear­lier this month when a vis­it­ing Tai­wanese del­e­ga­tion met with lo­cal busi­ness lead­ers, in­clud­ing Hu­bert Em­manuel, Saint Lu­cia’s am­bas­sador to Tai­wan from 2016 to 2018.

No­tably, this event will seek to go be­yond gov­ern­ment re­la­tions, plac­ing an em­pha­sis upon the busi­ness com­mu­nity, and forg­ing links be­tween small and medium sized busi­nesses be­tween the two na­tions.

Global head­winds may await this bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship in 2019, but the build­ing of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the peo­ple of two na­tions will ul­ti­mately grow strong­est via en­dur­ing links in the pri­vate sec­tor. The Saint Lu­cia-Tai­wan Part­ner­ship Tradeshow is the next step­ping stone in this path.

This not­with­stand­ing, the ef­forts by the CPC to have na­tions switch recog­ni­tion of China’s right­ful gov­ern­ment from Taipei to Bei­jing have been ro­bust over the past year, with Do­minica and El Sal­vador switch­ing sides ear­lier in 2018

Xi Jin­ping, Pres­i­dent of China. Con­sid­er­ing that the U.S.-Caribbean Strate­gic En­gage­ment Act of 2016 still has not been im­ple­mented, ob­servers of Caribbean geopol­i­tics main­tain the per­spec­tive that Wash­ing­ton be­lieves the Caribbean is “too demo­cratic and not poor enough” to war­rant long-term U.S. en­gage­ment. In the back­drop, China’s lat­est over­tures to the Caribbean in­clude the prom­ise that ad­her­ents of the One-China pol­icy will be able to ac­cess the re­source tool­kit of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive—a de­vel­op­ment that will prove at­trac­tive to many prime min­is­ters of the re­gion.

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