The Fijian flag flies in front of Taipei 101 in an undated photograph. Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

TRADE MISSION: After Fijian elections in December last year, pro-democratic parties formed a coalition and overruled a name change imposed by the former government

By Liu Tzu-hsuan / Staff reporter

The Taipei Trade Office in Fiji has been restored to its former name, the Trade Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Republic of Fiji, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Fiji on Friday last week issued a note verbale to the office saying that the name change was retroactively effective from March 15, Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Director-General Wallace Chow (周民恩) told a news conference in Taipei.

The mission's diplomatic privileges have been reinstated as stipulated in Fiji's Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act, which was enacted in 1971, Chow said.

Taiwan set up a trade mission in Fiji in 1971, which was closed and replaced by the East Asia Trade Center in 1976, a year after China and Fiji established diplomatic relations.

The East Asia Trade Center was renamed the Trade Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Republic of Fiji in 1988, before Beijing pressed Fiji to change it to the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji in 2018 and to revoke the privileges of Taiwanese diplomats .

Taiwan typically uses the term “Taipei” instead of its official name “Republic of China (Taiwan)” when naming its de facto embassies in most nations, mainly because the host nation adheres to Beijing’s “one China” principle.

After the Fijian general elections in December last year, pro-democratic opposition parties the People's Alliance Party, the National Federation Party and the Social Democratic Liberal Party formed a coalition and overruled the name change imposed by the former government, Chow said.

The new government acknowledges Taiwan's contributions in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, medical care and education, which have benefited the people of Fiji since Taiwan established its representative office in 1971, he said.

The ministry thanked Fiji for its decision, adding that Fiji is a like-minded partner in the Pacific region and Taiwan would continue to boost its ties with the nation.

Although China has so far made no comment on the change, “it might react quite aggressively,” Chow said.

Asked whether the move indicates that Fiji has the intention to have simultaneous diplomatic relations with Taiwan and China, he said that the ministry does not exclude the possibility and it would deliberate on any proposal to expand Fiji's economic and trade space with Taiwan.

Fiji closed its representative office in Taipei in 2017, reportedly due to a need to make better use of its resources and not because of pressure from China.

A diplomatic source told the Central News Agency (CNA) that the new Fijian government, which is more friendly toward Taiwan, has been in talks to reopen the office in Taipei.

Despite the lack of official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, Fijian leaders have visited Taiwan and even spoke up for Taiwan's international participation on several occasions, CNA cited the source as saying.

Additional reporting by CNA

News source: TAIPEI TIMES