December 23, 2004
Grenada close to breaking with Taiwan

The controversial visit by Grenadian Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to negotiate assistance for his hurricane-ravaged country has left Taiwan’s ambassador to St. Vincent and the Grenadines baffled.{{more}}

Ambassador Elizabeth Chu told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that Dr. Mitchell’s statement on his recent trip to China is confusing. She said the same assistance the Grenadian leader was asking the PRC for is what Taiwan had been giving Grenada over the years, and had promised to give in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.

She said that Prime Minister Mitchell had requested help from the PRC for Low Income Housing and the National Stadium among other things.

Media reports stated that the Taiwanese government had pledged US$40 million to rebuild the cricket stadium, along with millions of dollars in other aid.

Last Monday night Prime Minister Mitchell in his address to his nation announced that he and his delegation had successfully negotiated a package of assistance from China that will flow directly to various sectors of the economy over the next five to six years. However the Grenadian leader did not give any specifics of any promised assistance package expected from the mainland Chinese.

“It is very confusing,” said Chu. “We have promised them their every wishes, the only thing we do not know is how much effort [it may take] to please the Prime Minister.”

Chu said Mitchell’s negotiations with the PRC would definitely hamper its relations with Taiwan.

“If you are the Taiwanese people what will you think?” Chu questioned.

The ambassador said the PRC’s only purpose is to have other countries cut ties with Taiwan.

Taiwan has affirmed that it has the right to be an independent state but the PRC on the other hand regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened to use force if the self-governing island declares independence. Both countries over the years have lobbied for the support of countries all over the world.

Prime Minister Mitchell in his address to his nation said Grenada remains eternally grateful for all the assistance from Taiwan. However, he gave an impassioned plea to his countrymen to understand his reasons for making the controversial trip in that “the foreign policy of all governments, whether big or small, have always been determined on the basis of what is the highest good for the country, at any given point in time”.

Mitchell said the development of friendship with one country does not, in itself, negate friendly relations with others. “For example, Grenada has diplomatic ties with Cuba. We are also very good friends with the United States of America. Moreover, diplomatic relations with one country does not preclude economic, cultural and trade relations with any other country.”

But is Dr. Mitchell making a miscalculation here? Usually, if one signs an aid and trade agreement with China, that country has to go further and sign an agreement for diplomatic relations. So does this mean that Grenada might be cutting ties with Taiwan soon? And given Grenada’s current financial woes, would it really matter that much to the beleaguered Prime Minister?

Dr. Mitchell clearly has issues with the Taiwanese. He told the Grenadian people that he has had occasion “to complain to diplomatic personnel here in Grenada, as well as to high level personnel in Taipei, at both ministerial and official levels”. He said these complaints focused on our dissatisfaction with the attitudes and relations Grenada has been experiencing at the hands of the present Taiwanese Government personnel, both in Taipei as well as from the local representatives.

If Grenada eventually breaks ties with Taiwan, as seems likely, Taiwan would be left only with St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize and Haiti as the CARICOM states still supporting Taiwan.