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President Tsai addresses National Assembly of Belize and receives copy of assembly's resolution to support Taiwan
President Tsai addresses National Assembly of Belize and receives copy of assembly's resolution to support Taiwan

On the morning of April 3 local time (early morning of April 4 Taipei time), President Tsai Ing-wen delivered an address before the National Assembly of Belize.

Upon arriving at the National Assembly of Belize, President Tsai was greeted by Prime Minister John Briceño and Leader of the Opposition Shyne Barrow, after which she was accompanied by Speaker of the House of Representatives Valerie Woods and President of the Senate Carolyn Trench-Sandiford into the assembly, where she delivered an address.

A transcript of President Tsai's remarks follows:

It is so wonderful to be in Belmopan again. I cannot believe it's been five years since we last saw one another. This is too long, in my opinion.

I want to begin my talk by thanking Prime Minister Briceño, Speaker Valerie Woods of the House of Representatives, and President Trench-Sandiford of the Senate for inviting me to speak at your National Assembly.

I have very fond memories of my last trip to Belize. I visited Taiwan Street, where our embassy stands. I also remember meeting aspiring young Belizeans, and was very happy to offer scholarships for their studies in Taiwan. I remember thinking, these bright minds would eventually serve as bridges for our friendship in our shared future. I also remember visiting the Museum of Belize, seeing the drawings of slave ships and hearing dreadful stories of the slave trade.

What our two countries share, is the strength and courage to rise from our challenging past, and make our present and future free, bright, and prosperous.

Therefore, I must tell you again, I am delighted to be back in your beautiful country.

I would really have loved to come to Belize earlier, however, most of us were grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as we work diligently to move toward the post-pandemic era, more challenges await us. For example, climate change, economic downturn, inflation, and most challenging of all, expansionist threats from authoritarian regimes.

The people of Taiwan face constant threats and pressure from the neighbor on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. While Taiwan's relationships with democracies around the world have grown stronger in recent years, we continue to be excluded from participating in international organizations, and serving as a productive member of the international community.

From international forums to meetings held by international organizations, such as the United Nations, WHO, ICAO, and under the UNFCCC, Belize has helped give voice to the 23 million people of Taiwan. I want to say thank you.

Not only that, Belize continues to be Taiwan's strongest and most powerful advocate for our international participation.

Moreover, last May, in this very chamber, your National Assembly members unanimously passed a motion to support Taiwan's participation in international organizations. And, a motion supporting democratic Taiwan was also passed a few days ago.

On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I want to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the government of Belize, and all the members of the House and the Senate. Your unwavering friendship and support mean so much to us. 

Belize has accomplished quite a lot over its history. And as a grateful friend, Taiwan is honored to play a role in assisting Belize's national development, through projects on infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, disaster management and prevention, information and communications technology, and education.

In fact, I am very pleased to note that, over the past two years, Taiwan and Belize have been able to step up our bilateral cooperation to help make everyday life here even more convenient.

For example, road upgrades will connect people from one region to another. We are also working together to bring clean water to rural areas. More importantly, in order to better the learning environment for Belize's next generation, we are supporting programs to provide nutritious food and internet access to schools.

In addition, an upgrade to provide more comprehensive healthcare facilities on Belizean islands – the San Pedro General Hospital – will soon commence.

Our efforts do not stop here. Through our joint Women's Empowerment Project, Belizean women are able to receive vocational training and financial support to fulfil their entrepreneurial aspirations. To this date, the program has directly assisted over 700 women and benefited more than 2,000 people in Belize.

The ICDF Scholarship and the MOFA Taiwan Scholarship have also brought 500 Belizean students to Taiwan to attend schools. It is also my hope to welcome even more students to come study in Taiwan.

These projects, wide-ranging in scope, are testament to our close cooperation and substantive contributions to Belizean society.

As Belize's 10th largest trading partner, we look forward to opening up even more avenues for cooperation.

Since the Taiwan-Belize Economic Cooperation Agreement took effect last January, Belizean exports to Taiwan in 2022 increased to 317 percent of the amount in 2021, that is 3.24 million US dollars. One such example is Marie Sharp's hot sauce, which is already very popular in Taiwan, and also one of my personal favorites.

Steps are also being taken to realize the potential of Belize's seafood industry. A letter of intent was signed last year between companies from our two countries for the import of 2 million US dollars' worth of Belizean lobsters. Our government is working to facilitate and accelerate the import of marine products from Belize, so that more delicious Belizean seafood can make it onto Taiwanese dinner tables.

And, as we speak, our Coffee and Cacao Mission is exploring opportunities for cooperation with your country.

Spurred on by the Taiwan-Belize Economic Cooperation Agreement, our economies can look forward to even closer engagement.

Even though our countries are thousands of miles apart, our connection is intimate and strong. We share some similar history, like emerging from colonial rule and rising above our challenging pasts. Now, we uphold the values of democracy and face the challenges to our existence without hesitation.

Both our countries' success is testament to what courage, hard work, determination, and diligence can achieve.

And, our relationship is built on genuine partnership between our governments, our people, and our businesses. My visits to Belize have solidified my confidence that our relationship will continue to stand strong for decades to come.

Let me conclude my address by reiterating what I said here five years ago, “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 34 years, has led to results that have benefitted people from both our countries.

While we recognize that there are countries that seek to insert a wedge into this friendship, we have remained close because of our common values and our shared vision for a more prosperous and peaceful future. We will also continue to work together to demonstrate that democracies help one another and we deliver.

Here, in the presence of true friends, please allow me to reaffirm Taiwan's steadfast commitment to our bilateral partnership.

I want to once again thank Prime Minister Briceño, Speaker Woods, President Trench-Sandiford, Leader of the Opposition Barrow, and all the members of the National Assembly for your hospitality and for inviting me to address you here today.

Following the president's address, Prime Minister Briceño presented President Tsai with a copy of the Resolution to Support Democratic Taiwan Motion, 2023.

In the afternoon, the president was hosted by the Governor-General Froyla Tzalam of Belize and her husband at a state luncheon, where both parties enjoyed much friendly interaction in the cordial atmosphere.

Also in attendance at today's events were Prime Minister Briceño, Speaker Woods, Senate President Trench-Sandiford, Opposition Leader Barrow, and members of the National Assembly.

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