Taiwan: China has eyes for everyone but Taiwan at APEC
"Taiwan cannot be called a country. It's an economy," China's Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang told reporters after the first day of the two-day APEC ministerial meeting.
"It may be possible that both economies sit down and talk about issues not concerning sovereignty, but so far there isn't any arrangement for such bilateral talks about anything," he said.
Shen and Deputy Commerce Minister Yi Xiaozhun, are Beijing's representatives to the ministerial meeting, in the absence of Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, who were supposed to attend.
Li and Bo were expected to arrive in Santiago yesterday along with with other senior economic officials.
Both Beijing and Taipei's delegates attended Wednesday's meeting, but they didn't interact with one another.
This was the second year in a row without any bilateral talks during the APEC ministerial meeting.
Beijing turned down Taiwan's invitation last year to talk under the APEC framework following President Chen Shui-bian's announcement to push for a new constitution.
During the 2002 ministerial meeting, China's Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Shi Guangsheng met with his counterpart, Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu. Shi even invited Taiwan to sit down and talk on a variety of subjects, including direct transportation links.
Commenting on Shen's remarks, Huang Chih-peng, director-general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade and a delegation member, said that he believed every APEC member economy, including China, upholds the group's principles to work toward the common goal of trade facilitation and liberation, outlined in the Bogor Goals of 1994.
"We're more than happy to talk with member economies, formally or informally," he said.
"Our philosophy is simple. We'd like to make more friends and build more effective economy and trade relationships under the APEC framework," Huang said.
"Developing better economy and trade relations means making more friends," he said.
Huang said Taiwan doesn't refuse or exclude any opportunity to make friends with member economies, including China.
"As of today we have had bilateral talks with this year's host country, Chile, and next year's host, South Korea. We'd be very happy to talk with other interested economies," he said.
About eight countries have expressed interest in conducting bilateral talks, including Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand.
When asked by reporters why he did not mention bilateral talks with Canada, Huang said that he had not asked for permission from his Canadian counterpart to make those discussions public.
"Like a meeting between two friends, it's impolite to tell a third person if you don't have consent from other person," he said.
Asked about speculation that China had played a role in surpressing news of the Taiwan-Canada talks, Huang refused to comment.
"Politics is not my specialty," he said.