On the morning of Friday, August 17 local time (early morning of August 18 Taipei time), President Tsai Ing-wen delivered an address before the National Assembly of Belize.
Hereunder is a transcript of President Tsai's address:
Thank you, everyone. Good morning. It's great to be here in Belmopan and in your National Assembly.
The Right Honorable Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow, The Honorable Speaker Laura Tucker-Longsworth, The Honorable President Lee Mark Chang, The Honorable Leader of the Opposition John Briceño, distinguished members of both houses of parliament, ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to start off by saying what an honor it is to be here. I want to thank Prime Minister Barrow, with whom I had an excellent meeting just now. I also want to thank Speaker Tucker-Longsworth, and President Chang for your invitation.
Of course, I had the opportunity to meet with the Speaker, President, and Senator [Stephen A.] Duncan in Taipei just two months ago. So I'm especially happy to be able to come to Belize so soon after your visit.
Yesterday, my first day in Belize, I was moved by the warm reception the people of Belize extended upon our arrival.
It was touching to visit Taiwan Street – where our embassy stands – and be reminded of the friendship that has brought our two peoples closer together. And I was especially pleased to have a chance to meet with young Belizeans, and to offer 29 scholarships, the most ever, for their studies in Taiwan. These young people are not only the future of Belize, but also its brightest students, and they will serve as the bridges that will sustain our friendship for many years to come.
Last night, I had the honor of receiving the Order of Belize from His Excellency Governor General Sir Colville Young. I want to express my gratitude for this extraordinary recognition and for the Governor General's hosting the ceremony at such a special location. Visiting the Museum of Belize, actually seeing the drawings of the slave ships, and hearing the tales of the suffering in the slave trade, makes the contrast with the bright, open, and prosperous Belize of today all the greater.
Belize has accomplished a lot over its history, for which the people of Belize should be rightfully proud. And the Republic of China (Taiwan) is so pleased to have played a part in support of that.
I'm sure our work here has been felt by the distinguished members of the chamber. In Belize City, the Taiwan Technical Mission has worked with local partners to revitalize the historical quarters, which will benefit tourism and the preservation of history. We are supporting efforts by the Institute for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ITVET) to improve vocational training for young people. In the Central Farm Agriculture Station, which is just a short distance from here, we are engaging with your farmers to introduce new agricultural produce and improve breeds for livestock. And across the country, our health practitioners are working to strengthen the capabilities of the Belize Health Information System.
While these are just some examples of many projects that are already ongoing, today I want to use this opportunity to say Taiwan is also prepared to do more.
Our own experience shows us the importance of education as an engine for growth and social development. This is why I'm pleased to announce here that in addition to increasing the number of Taiwan scholarship students from Belize, which we have started to implement, we will also be inviting young Belizeans for short term vocational training programs in Taiwan.
My administration has announced we will be providing 520 vacancies to talented young individuals from across our diplomatic allies. And for young people that are unable to come to Taiwan, we are also working with ITVET to improve their teaching facilities and the quality of their training programs here.
Taiwan is also prepared to make more investments in Belize's agriculture, industry, and infrastructure. The construction of new roads, hospitals, and other important projects are especially ideal candidates for our Official Development Assistance program. From our farmers to overseas construction companies, Taiwan has accumulated a lot of experience that we're willing to share. And we, of course, look forward to doing so with one of Taiwan's closest friends and allies, Belize.
Economically, we are working with the private sector to support their investment and procurement plans in Belize. For example, we know Belize makes great cocoa, as well as coffee. I'm a big fan of coffee myself, so I know how important this is to everyone that has trouble getting up in the morning.
Well, earlier this year, we worked with some of Taiwan's largest cocoa and coffee purchasers to organize a delegation to Belize, and you can expect many more of these delegations in the future. Furthermore, many members of my delegation are from the business sector, and I will personally be Belize's biggest advocate in encouraging them to set up their operations here.
And in terms of tourism, well, I can't say much about this, because I haven't had a chance to visit your famous beaches in Placencia Peninsula and the wonderful resorts in San Pedro. But I do know that many people have, and they tell me the resorts are some of the most stunning in the world. So you can be sure that we will also work with you to find ways to bring more Taiwanese tourists into your beautiful country.
I want to emphasize that despite the great geographic distance between our two countries, Belize remains close to our hearts. The Republic of China (Taiwan) is committed to supporting the national development of Belize as a friend and partner. We believe in the great potential of the Belizean people and all that you are destined to accomplish.
In the international community, Belize has also been an outspoken supporter for Taiwan.
From the halls of the United Nations to different forums and organizations from around the world, Belize has acted as a voice for the international aspirations of the 23 million people of Taiwan. At a time of growing political pressure against Taiwan's international space, you have spoken for the rights and obligations of Taiwan as a member of the international community. Diplomats and civil society representatives from our two countries have worked hand in hand to promote sustainable development goals, and advance our shared values of freedom and democracy. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I want to express my sincere gratitude for Belize's efforts. Thank you for your unwavering support and friendship.
Now I want to conclude my address in the National Assembly by saying this: the friendship between Taiwan and Belize is not built on empty promises or the political whims of our leadership. This is a friendship that, for the past 29 years, has led to results, results that have benefitted people across both our countries.
From students to farmers, historians to engineers, mechanics to scientists, Taiwan has touched every facet of Belizean society. This is a friendship built on the real working partnerships between our peoples, governments, institutions, and businesses. And I know that with all of your support, this is a relationship that will continue to stand strong for many decades to come.
It is, of course, well recognized that there are countries in the world that seek to do harm to this relationship. These countries believe that through empty promises, they can sway the genuine friendship we've built over the past three decades.
Well, I know in Belize you have a proverb for that – amongst many other things – "No ebery ting, weh gat sugah sweet." Not everything that has sugar is sweet. And I know this is a real proverb because I read about it in your Governor General's book, published 38 years ago.
Indeed, as your Governor General and many of the distinguished members with us today show: Belize is a country of builders, thinkers, and writers. It is a young country with a proud history and immense potential.
The people of Taiwan are so proud to be able to partner with you on the road of national development. Just as we know that Belize will always be there for Taiwan, we will always be here for Belize – for many, many years to come.
Again, I want to thank Prime Minister Barrow, Speaker Tucker-Longsworth, President Chang, Leader of the Opposition [John] Briceño, and the distinguished members of the National Assembly of Belize for affording me the great honor of speaking in this chamber. I trust that under the shade of our longstanding friendship, we shall all flourish. Thank you!