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Prime Minister on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with China - August 29, 1997

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AUGUST 29th, 1997.

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Fellow Saint Lucians, my brothers and sisters, good night.
Over the last few weeks, there has been much speculation as to whether the Saint Lucia Labour Party Government would be changing its policy on diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan. In earlier pronouncements by myself and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. George Odlum, we had indicated that the Labour Party Government was in fact reviewing its policy towards China and that a statement would be made at the appropriate time.

I believe that in the conduct of the affairs of state, we should wait for the right moment to publicly announce The course of action of the Government. I do not believe that it is wise to rush to make a public statement every time something is reported, or speculated, in the press. I ask you to continue to have the trust in me that I will always inform you on what is happening in the country. There was a report earlier today from the Public Relations Officer of the United Workers Party to the effect that we denied we were breaking diplomatic relations with Taiwan. You know that this is not true. We never denied anything. I simply believe that there is a right time for everything.

Today, I think that the time is right, and I wish to brief you on the Government’s position on the China question.

Background to the establishment of diplomatic relations with Taiwan by the previous administration
When the Government of Saint Lucia established relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan in 1984, this was done within a particular local and international context. The UWP Government was, at that time, seeking investment from the far east, for the garment industry and other related fields, and was looking towards Hong Kong in particular for that investment.

The prospect of Hong Kong reverting to the control of Mainland China, had meant that there was capital in Hong Kong, searching for new areas in which to nestle. The then Government in St. Lucia, saw diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan, as providing an avenue to, and an assurance for that Hong Kong capital, and for providing a possible source of support for a free trade zone in St. Lucia. The UWP Government proceeded to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Since then, Saint Lucia and Taiwan had developed warm and friendly relations. The Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan has provided Saint Lucia with various forms of technical assistance and support. I wish to reiterate the appreciation of the peoples of Saint Lucia, for that token of friendship and for the work done here by the various diplomatic representatives of Taiwan. Saint Lucia on the other hand, has consistently supported the call for the readmission of the Republic of China on Taiwan into the United Nations - a call that has so far been unsuccessful. The world simply does not regard it as realistic in the circumstances. Nevertheless, St. Lucia has never flinched in helping to advance the cause of Taiwan to an international community which is not prepared to listen. So while the entire world was moving towards Mainland China, the last administration continued to support the position of Taiwan. For example, during the last two months both the Bahamas and South Africa have broken ties with Taiwan and established relations with Mainland China.

Reasons for considering diplomatic relations with mainland china
In our election manifesto, the Saint Lucia Labour Party promised to sharpen the focus of its foreign policy on the objectives of the economic and social development of our country. We will be continually assessing our needs in Saint Lucia and will ensure that our foreign policy is in keeping with those needs.

In the case of our relations with Taiwan, fourteen years after the establishment of diplomatic relations, the local and international context which prompted the setting up of these relations has changed. The hope for capital from Hong Kong for the local manufacturing sector, did not materialise, neither has the free trade zone, and Hong Kong itself has now reverted to mainland Chinese sovereignty.

The international context has changed in other ways. The number of countries which in 1984 had full diplomatic relations with Taiwan and with the Peoples Republic of China has now changed. Today, the number of countries with relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan, has diminished to 31, and those with the People's Republic of China, has grown to 159. Of these 159, the following Caribbean countries have relations with the peoples Republic of China - Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and more recently, the Bahamas.

1. The majority of countries in the world today have full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. From the point of view of international law, the recognition of the administration on Taiwan as the Government of all China, is not tenable. This is why countries ranging from the USA to Barbados, have recognised the administration in Beijing as the legitimate government of China. Therefore, our decision is in keeping with international developments on the non-recognition of Taiwan as a legitimate state.
Locally, our priorities have also changed from what the then UWP Government was hoping for in 1984. Building a garment industry with Hong Kong capital is no longer the great objective that it appeared to be. Our commercial sector is now seeking new trading opportunities and new frontiers. Hong Kong is now the gateway to Mainland China, with the vast trade possibilities which lie there. Taiwan can no longer provide the link with Hong Kong.

There is also the reality that, internationally, we have witnessed a decline in development finance. This suggests that Saint Lucia needs to develop a foreign policy which would provide the greatest possibilities for such financing. We cannot remain trapped in the arrangements of the past administration, which was consistent with the UWP’s approach to development. We have taken stock of the needs of our country. We must vigorously pursue a course of action which will bring maximum benefit to our country.

For all these reasons, the Saint Lucia Labour Party government has therefore decided to establish formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, as from September 1st., 1997. Unfortunately, Since one cannot recognise two different administrations as being the Government of one country, formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China will mean the severing of relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan. We have, however, offered to maintain commercial relations with the Republic of China. This is not unusual, as the Republic of China on Taiwan does have such relations with the majority of the countries, which broke off diplomatic relations since 1971.

By taking such action, we will be joining over one hundred and fifty countries including the great democracies which are our traditional friends - the UK, the USA, France and Canada, To name a few - to recognise the Beijing administration as the Government of China.

There are persons - now discredited - who are seeking to eke out some political capital from our decision to enter into diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, to make you believe that the SLP has committed some duplicitous, unforgivable act. To them, we say, We are simply conducting a more realistic foreign policy than they dared to practice. The United Workers Party, over the past thirteen years, was comfortable with a foreign policy which sought to keep ministers happy instead of seeking funds to develop the people of our country. In all this, we have been very open with the Taiwanese and have discussed the issue with them throughout our deliberations on the matter. Our approach will always be one of gaining respect for St. Lucia through a sensible foreign policy.

By concluding diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, Saint Lucia will only be modernising its foreign policy, and proceeding in a direction which the majority of the world's states have already trod. In addition to concluding diplomatic relations, Saint Lucia will, on September 1st, 1997, also sign an economic cooperation agreement with the People's Republic of China, the details of which will be released in due course. In this regard, a team of Chinese technical experts will be arriving in Saint Lucia next week to evaluate with local counterparts, a number of development projects in Saint Lucia, to be undertaken under the terms of the economic cooperation agreement.

We are charting a new course and establishing new friendships with countries which are committed to being partners with us, in the social and economic development of our people, in a very tangible way. I ask you to welcome them, to extend to them our traditional hospitality, as they work with us, as equal partners, in the task of building a new St. Lucia.
I thank you and good night.

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