A former Japanese Minister of Agriculture on Oct. 12 called on Japan to start negotiation with Taiwan over possibly signing an economic partnership agreement facilitate two-way-trade as the latter is launching the New Southbound Policy.
Speaking during the second and the last day of the debut Yushan Forum, Tokuichiro Tamazawa, a former minister of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said food trade will be an important part of the policy that aims to shift Taiwan’s focus to ASEAN countries instead of over relying to China.
Signing EPA with countries in the region will be a good starting point, he suggested, and Taiwan included.
“Therefore I suggest Japan should sign EPA with Asian countries and I sincerely hope Japan can start the negotiation with Taiwan on EPA issue,” Tamazawa said.
Tamazawa added that the most important theme for the promotion of the New Southbound Policy lies in sharing common values the democratic Taiwan has; namely; human rights, freedom, as well as the respect of international laws, with regional partners.
He quoted former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) as saying that "even if democracy is realized, it is still possible to go back to autocracy.”
Thus, the retired Japanese heavyweight political urged Japan, Taiwan and the United States and other likeminded democracies should work together with other Asian countries that share the same values to protect peace and stability in the region.
During the luncheon session, two distinguished guests, namely, Hyun Oh-Seok, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Republic of Korea and Kasit Piromya, an ex- Thailand Foreign Minister, shared their views on the New Southbound Policy as they served as keynote speakers to the event.
In his speech, Piromya praised Taiwan for its accomplishments in terms of economic competitiveness and successful political transformation over the past two decades.
Unlike China that has continuously bragged about its model of economic success under a one-party-rule, he said Taiwan is a perfect example of achieving modernization in both economic and political senses because of its upholding of freedom and human rights.
As the country pushes for the new policy that focus on ASEAN countries and South Asia, Piromya said Taiwan should not just focus on conducting cultural, tourism and economic exchanges but also democratic values. “Taiwan can share its experience and now-how so that we can all enjoy both economic and political freedoms,” he noted.
The sharing of successful political transformation experience for the past twenty years of the Republic of China Taiwan will bring about the change of the mindsets for people in Southeast and South Asian, he concluded.
In the earlier morning session, with the theme of “NGO Engagement,” Nina Kao (高小玲), a member on the Board of Directors at the Taiwan Alliance in International Development, shared the story behind her organization, which is the first NGO platform of its kind in the country.
She pointed out that the project mapping of her alliance is mostly operating in countries covered by the New Southbound Policy, and thus NGO’s experiences and expertise can offer valuable help to Taiwan government as it pushes the new program.
However, Kao noted that most funding of her platform came from private donations with only 12 percent budget given by the government. “The power of NGO cannot be neglected,” she noted, calling on government for more financial support.
Meanwhile, Marko Lovrekovic, Managing Co-Director of the Vietnam-based VUFO-NGO Resource Centre, told at the same session that NGOs in the country are facing a lot of challenges. Vietnamese legal environment is not friendly toward NGO’s operation and fund-raising within Vietnam is not regulated at all, he noted.
Despite the challenges, however, his center that offers assistance to 487 NGOs registered in Vietnam, is quite successful against all odds.
Lovrekovic noted that there is already a number of Taiwanese NGOs operating in Vietnam. For instance, Zhishan Foundation has been helping orphanage for more than 20 years in Ho Chi Minh City. He called on more Taiwanese assistance to the country as the country is shifting focus to the region based on the New Southbound Policy.
“Humanity is universal. Trust and true friendship of people are the things that make everything possible,” he concluded.
“Yushan Forum: Asian Dialogue for Innovation and Progress,” a newly launched platform for regional dialogue that aims to promote the exchange of ideas across Asia Pacific, was held in Taipei from Oct. 11-12.
With a theme of “Fostering Economic and Social Connectivity with Southeast and South Asia” this year, the event features speakers and participants from the Asia Pacific region and beyond, including India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Belgium, Croatia and the Netherlands .