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President Tsai holds reception in Belize for traveling press corps


President Tsai attends business roundtable with Taiwanese companies in Houston, Texas

Our trip to Paraguay and Belize is coming to an end. And around noon tomorrow we will depart Belize for Houston, Texas.

During the week long trip, my delegation visited many places with a very full agenda. Friends from the media who are with us have been briefed on all the programs of this trip. I want to take this opportunity to give a brief summary of the trip.

The most important event during this trip was the inauguration of President Mario Abdo Benítez of Paraguay. At the ceremony, I had the opportunity to engage with heads and deputy heads of state, and delegation heads representing many nations. I also took part in a number of bilateral discussions, of which some were on the direction of future cooperation, and some for a better understanding of domestic development in each other's countries.

A second important aspect of the trip was having a chance to share some good news with our colleagues at Taiwan's overseas technical missions: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to increase their rent allowances and their children's education stipends. After my last trip to eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland) earlier this year, I understood more about the daily lives and challenges of Taiwan personnel at overseas technical missions, and wanted to adjust their compensation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs implemented some changes four months after the trip, so the hard-working staff at our technical missions can now receive the same stipends enjoyed by diplomatic personnel.

A third important component of the trip, and I am sure many of our media friends have noticed, was that many items on the agenda concerned education, particularly two among them. The first one was the Taiwan Scholarship Program, and I hope that young people from our diplomatic allies can study in Taiwan, so the government has continued to increase the number of scholarships available. The second one was technical and vocational education, including a Taiwan-Paraguay Polytechnic University (Universidad Politécnica Taiwán-Paraguay, UPTP). Although an agreement was reached quickly when the plan for the university was initially discussed based on its clear merits, while implementing that plan, both sides invested a lot of time and energy discussing the details and working out the division of labor. All of you have seen the results of that planning stage. Afterwards both countries will keep working to better the UPTP and make it more comprehensive, so that we can cultivate a new generation of talent to support Paraguay's industrial development.

When I presented certificates to Belizean recipients of the Taiwan Scholarship recipients, I was quite impressed as every student looked incredibly bright and energetic. I trust they are the best and the brightest of Belizean youth. It is not only meaningful for top Belizean students to study with Taiwanese university students, it is equally stimulating for our university students. Apart from formal academic education, Taiwan also provides youth from diplomatic allies with access to an expanded range of technical and vocational programs. In other words, they don't come to Taiwan just to hit the books; they also come for short- and medium-term technical and vocational training.

If we take tailoring as an analogy, the cooperative programs between Taiwan and its diplomatic allies are nothing like products from a mass produced factory, but more akin to a tailored made garment from a highly skilled master tailor. That is the spirit of "mutual assistance for mutual benefits."

I thank the traveling press corps and your reports. Your reporting gave this trip substantial media exposure, as well as allowed our fellow countrymen a chance to learn about every aspect of the government's diplomatic work.

However, one thing has triggered much debate back in Taiwan. I'm referring to the incident involving the 85°C café. The incident occurred mostly because the shop just happened to be near our hotel in Los Angeles. It is certainly commendable that Taiwanese coffee shops can operate in the United States, and achieve that kind of scale and success. I was in the mood for a coffee after wrapping up some part of the program, so we stopped by at the shop to see how their business was going.

The barista recommended me their signature coffee with sea salt. I ordered one, and took a quick look at their other products. Even though western bakery is the main specialty of the 85°C café, I noticed that the shop also had a lot of Taiwanese-style desserts, which all looked quite delicious. I think it's great that Taiwanese people expand their businesses overseas, overcome all sorts of difficulties, and achieve big success. For people living and working far from home, having a place like 85°C café that eases their homesickness is very meaningful.

It's quite regrettable that buying one cup of coffee triggered so much political pressure, which made the coffee lose some of its flavor. When a Taiwanese firm is forced to make a political declaration, it puts them in a dilemma. Developments like that aren't healthy, and unhelpful to cross-strait relations. I think that was a very unhealthy outcome, and was not helpful to cross-strait relations. After living through first colonial and then authoritarian rule, the people of Taiwan have achieved freedom and democracy, one difficult step at a time, and it is a matter of great pride for us. But throughout this whole process we've seen the resilience of the Taiwanese people. And because we have this resilience character, I feel that the Taiwanese people will never bow to pressure.

While the 85°C café incident is regrettable, we cannot react by pointing fingers of blame. What we need to do is unite to uphold Taiwan's democracy and freedom. That's what our attitude should be.

Today is Chinese Valentine's Day. We've prepared some desserts for everyone, as well as the Marie Sharp's Belizean Heat which I mentioned yesterday. Good things are meant to be shared with good friends. Thank you.

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