May 31, 2018 07:03 PM
Updated June 01, 2018 11:05 AM
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s first official visit to Taiwan this week produced photo ops, meetings with Taiwanese business people and a military salute with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at his side during a ceremony.
But so far, it doesn’t appear to have produced a billion-dollar bailout for his struggling administration as some politicians had hoped the five-day visit to Taipei, which has been losing diplomatic allies to China, would produce.
In recent weeks, Taiwan has lost the Dominican Republic and the West African state of Burkina Faso to China, which two years ago began to aggressively go after Taiwan’s diplomatic allies. China considers Taiwan to be a wayward province and doesn’t allow countries to formally recognize both. As a result, Taipei now has 18 allies, including Haiti. The U.S. has been lobbying Haiti to remain with Taiwan, but some Haitian business interests are urging the government to ditch the country in favor of China.
According to ajoint communiquesigned by Moïse and Tsai on Tuesday, both countries pledge to further their mutual cooperation in a new partnership and continue negotiations over the next 60 days on new conditions for cooperation between Haiti and Taiwan.
“The two heads of state will work together to promote the economic and trade interests of the two countries, explore business opportunities in various fields, create a win-win situation, and work together to build a strategic alliance between the two countries,” the communique said.
It lists areas of consensus but makes no mention of any aid package, saying only that the leaders would “also like to see meaningful contacts between representatives of the business communities of the two countries.”
Sources, including members of Haiti’s 30-member delegation, confirm that no new money was offered and both presidents, who met privately, agreed to continue discussions over the next three months. Haiti is in desperate need of foreign investments, and Moïse has said he has seven priorities. The negotiations are expected to focus on four: energy, agriculture, infrastructure and private investments.
Government officials did not respond to a request for a comment on the meeting.
Prior to the visit, Taiwan had announced it was granting Haiti a $150 million low-interest loan to upgrade its rural power grids. But some in the Haitian delegation, which included the presidents of both chambers of parliament and business people, had hoped for as much as $1 billion in loans, and billions more in investments by Taiwan’s business owners.
Auguste “Gougousse” D’Meza, an educational and political consultant in Port-au-Prince, said Haiti’s greatest need is a development plan. He criticized the size of the delegation and added that having the presidents of both chambers created the appearance that “the choice has already been made” to stick with Taiwan.
“I don’t understand the need for the Haitian president to take all of these people. It’s as if you took all 30 of these people on a touristic trip to Taiwan,” D’Meza said.
He said before seeking additional money, Haiti needs to get to the bottom of what happened to $2 billion in Venezuela oil loans that ex-government ministers are accused of embezzling.“As long as we don’t resolve the problem of corruption, any money they give will not bring about a solution.”
Gilbert Hippolyte, the president of the Haiti-Taiwan Chamber of Commerce, who was not invited on the trip, said he remains hopeful that something positive will come from the visit, which ends Friday.
On Wednesday, a small delegation of about eight Taiwanese business owners arrived in Port-au-Prince to look into investment opportunities. Hippolyte said he plans to lead a similar group of Haitian business owners to Taipei in July.
“What Haiti needs right now is job creation. We need to put Haitians back to work,” Hippolyte said.