BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Director General Paul Yin-lien Chen of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Guam has wasted no time since his arrival in September.
He has met virtually with the leadership of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and with Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of Joint Region Marianas.
The aims of the relationships are mutual, he said. “I can feel the government people here are eager to restore the economic relationship.”
Chen has also met with island agencies in Guam — the Guam Visitors Bureau and the Guam Economic Development Agency — and enjoyed the interaction.
GVB’s aims include the establishment of a “safe bubble” travel arrangement between Taiwan and Guam, according to Journal files.
There were 28, 216 arrivals from Taiwan in 2019. Airlines from Taiwan are poised and interested in Guam and the NMI, Chen said, recognizing COVID-related challenges, which he said temper any optimism.
“My job is to encourage everyone to come back,” he said. Chen said the regional aviation market could offer future expansion opportunities.
Chen said his role encompasses many responsibilities such as protecting Taiwanese, whether they are tourists or residents. “The second is to promote the relationship between Taiwan and Guam in many ways — trade, culture, people-to-people exchange, economic — medical tourism too,” he said. Despite the high standard of care in Taiwan, medical tourism had not yet taken hold to a large extent from Guam, he said. Patients are sometimes sent to Taiwan for humanitarian reasons, Chen said.
Guam is important for other reasons as a part of the United States in the Indo-Pacific. “Guam is in a strategic location,” he said.
The relationship between the countries goes beyond an economic and cultural relationship, Chen said.
And indeed, Guam and Taipei have been sister cities since 1973.
Even before his arrival on island, Chen took the time to gauge feelings in Taiwan towards Guam and the appetite for economic investment, which he said is there. “Before that happens, we should be ready for that,” he said.
Taiwanese investment in Guam has been significant. Companies that do business in Guam include China Airlines, Lih Pao Construction, Chung Kuo Insurance, First Commercial Bank, Asia Cement Corp. and Lih Pao Investment LLC, which has purchased some high-profile properties in Guam.
The former Taipei Economic and Cultural Office closed in 2017. As it re-opens, the office has a deputy director, who is Stephen Shu-Chih Hsu.
Guam has a Taiwanese population of about 3,000, Chen said.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act is the basis for the unofficial relationship between the United States and Taiwan. After a previous name change, Taiwanese representation in the U.S. has been known as Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices. Taiwanese and U.S. diplomats have privileges and immunities in both countries, and Taiwan has 13 offices in the U.S. mainland.
Chen is a senior career diplomat who served as political director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles from 2010 to 2016, and political director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago from 2000 to 2007.
Prior to his appointment to Guam, he was the deputy director general of the Office of Parliamentarian Affairs from 2018 until September 2020.
Chen holds a bachelor’s and a master’s in diplomacy from the National Chengchi University in Teipei; a certificate in diplomacy and language training from the University of Oxford in England; a certificate of leadership and government management from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass.; and a master’s in public diplomacy from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Chen has appreciated the friendly welcome he has received.
And the Taiwanese flag now flies over the International Trade Center, where his office is. He said, “That’s a good sign of hospitality.” mbj