President Tsai Ing-wen met on the afternoon of May 21 with various international guests who had come to Taiwan to attend the inauguration of our 14th-term president and vice president. The visitors included Republic of Nauru President Baron Divavesi Waqa and Mrs. Waqa, Sao Tome and Principe Foreign Minister Manuel Salvador dos Ramos, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Louis Straker and Mrs. Straker, Republic of Panama First Lady Lorena Castillo de Varela, Republic of Nicaragua Vice President Moises Omar Halleslevens Acevedo, and Solomon Islands Governor General Frank Kabui and Mrs. Kabui. In addition to extending a warm welcome to her guests, President Tsai also called for further deepening of mutual exchanges and cooperation, and for lasting friendships.
While meeting with Nauru President Waqa, President Tsai mentioned that Taiwan and Nauru have long cooperated in such fields as medicine and health, agriculture and fisheries, human resource development, and clean energy. In the field of human resource development, for example, more than 30 students from Nauru have studied here under the Taiwan Scholarship program since 2006. Among them is President Waqa's daughter, who is currently enrolled in the Department of Medical Laboratory Science and Biotechnology at Yuanpei University of Medical Technology. President Tsai extended her best wishes for Miss Waqa's success in her studies here.
President Tsai also noted that President Waqa, with an eye to ensuring his nation's sustainable development, earlier this year helped establish the Intergenerational Trust Fund (NTF) for the people of the Republic of Nauru. Taiwan has responded by participating in the fund's operation as a member of the management committee. She expressed hope that the trust fund will yield strong returns and enhance the wellbeing of the people of Nauru.
During her meeting with Sao Tome and Principe Foreign Minister Ramos, President Tsai remarked that Taiwan and Sao Tome and Principe have now maintained diplomatic relations for 19 years, and bilateral cooperative ties are close, with projects covering such fields as public health and medicine, agricultural production, energy provision, tourism development, and information and communications technology (ICT) education. The results of cooperative programs have been lauded by both the ruling and opposition camps in Sao Tome and Principe, and also by the World Health Organization and the African Union.
President Tsai then thanked Sao Tome and Principe for the firm support it has shown over the years for expanding Taiwan's participation in the international community. In 2015, for example, Sao Tome and Principe spoke out on Taiwan's behalf at the World Health Assembly and the United Nations General Assembly. The president expressed hope that such support will continue in the future, "so that Taiwan's opportunities for international participation will continue to expand."
While meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Straker of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), President Tsai first congratulated him for winning last year's elections, where the Unity Labour Party (ULP) led by Mr. Straker and SVG Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves won the chance to govern for the fourth consecutive time. Although Mr. Straker had retired in 2010, he returned for these elections and still won an overwhelming victory in his electoral district. Clearly he is much loved and respected in SVG, said President Tsai.
President Tsai then stated that Taiwan and SVG have enjoyed a very stable friendship since establishing diplomatic relations, and have achieved considerable success with projects in such fields as infrastructure, agriculture, medicine, ICT, education, and cultural exchanges. In infrastructure, in particular, the two countries in recent years have joined forces to build the Rabacca Bridge, a national library, and 13 learning resource centers. In addition, Taiwan helped to construct a terminal at the Argyle International Airport. The terminal was completed in 2013, and a new runway and other facilities will be completed and begin operation in the latter half of this year. These new facilities will certainly benefit SVG citizens for generations to come, she said.
During her meeting with Panamanian First Lady Castillo de Varela, President Tsai noted that Panama's economy has achieved robust growth in recent years, and infrastructure development has been vigorous. Panama has emerged as a regional logistics center and a Latin American air transport hub. The Panama Canal Expansion, moreover, is scheduled for completion on June 26 of this year, at which time Panama will become even more important than it already is, and will be able to achieve new heights.
Commenting on Taiwan-Panama relations, President Tsai noted that the diplomatic relationship dates back over a century, and that the friendship is close even though the two countries are located far apart. Looking to the future, the president expressed hope that our two countries will build on existing foundations and continue to deepen and broaden our cooperative relationship.
President Tsai then met with Nicaraguan Vice President Halleslevens. During the meeting, she noted that the friendship between Taiwan and Nicaragua is very close, and that bilateral cooperation projects have all proceeded very smoothly. The two countries last year signed a framework agreement for technical cooperation, under which Taiwan provides Nicaragua with technical assistance in projects involving rice, bamboo handicrafts, common beans, and plantains, all of which are moving smoothly. Early this year, moreover, the two countries signed an aviation services agreement, which will undoubtedly help airline companies to further develop business opportunities in regional aviation.
The president also mentioned that Taiwan and Nicaragua have close educational, economic, and trade ties. Every year for the past 10 years, she said, 30 young students come to Taiwan from Nicaragua to pursue higher education. Commenting on economic and trade ties, the president stated that two-way trade has been growing each year. Last year, Nicaraguan exports to Taiwan accounted for two-thirds of this trade, an indication that public- and private-sector efforts in both countries are now yielding good results. It is also a concrete outcome of the two countries' diplomatic ties.
President Tsai took the opportunity to thank Nicaragua for the many years it has spent supporting Taiwan in its quest to take part in international forums and organizations with a focus on health, environmental protection, and civil aviation. And after the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan was hit by a strong earthquake this past February, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega Saavedra and Mrs. Ortega promptly called by telephone to convey their condolences, and followed up with personally written letters to express their concern. The government and people of Taiwan found these acts very touching, so President Tsai asked Vice President Halleslevens to convey her sincere gratitude and greetings to President Ortega and Mrs. Ortega after returning to Nicaragua.
Meeting slightly later with a delegation led by Solomon Islands Governor General Kabui and Mrs. Kabui, President Tsai noted that official ties between Taiwan and the Solomon Islands date back 33 years. Our two countries have supported each other as friends for many years, she said, and have achieved a great deal through close cooperation in such fields as medicine and health, agricultural technology, human resource development, and clean energy. For example, Taiwan helped with construction of Central Hospital in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands, and has carried out very successful projects there in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, and animal husbandry. Looking to the future, the president expressed hope that Taiwan and the Solomon Islands can continue working, in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual benefit, to strengthen substantive bilateral cooperative relations and solidify our diplomatic ties.