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Belizean ambassador to Taiwan praises bilateral ties ahead of 40th Independence Day

Ambassador Pitts says she hopes to strengthen bond between two countries

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Belizean Ambassador to Taiwan Candice Pitts. (Taiwan News, Kelvin Chen photo)

Belizean Ambassador to Taiwan Candice Pitts. (Taiwan News, Kelvin Chen photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Belizean Ambassador to Taiwan Dr. Candice Pitts has said the Caribbean nation has been very engaged with Taiwan and that she hopes to further strengthen bilateral relations during her term.

Pitts, who has been in Taipei for almost seven months, told Taiwan News that in recent years, the embassy has hosted Belizean artists, musicians, and chefs to display their crafts and works.

She also mentioned that the Belize Taiwan Academic Conference, the first of its kind, was held in July. This event is “a tangible representation of the benefits of education opportunities between Belize and Taiwan,” Pitts said.

The ambassador added that the Belize Taiwan Songs Commission was launched last month by the embassy, Central American Trade Office, and the National Institute of Culture and History in Belize. The purpose of this is to commission at least five songs “to highlight the beneficial relationship between Belize and Taiwan.”

Belize also participated in a food show held earlier this month, alongside other Central American and Caribbean countries, to promote domestic food products in Taiwan. Pitts said that some upcoming events include ones related to promoting trade and investment between both countries.

With regard to economic relations, the ambassador said Belize and Taiwan are eagerly awaiting ratification of the Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA), which was signed last year and is expected to come into effect this October.

Taiwan has already expressed interest in Belizean marine products, including lobster, shrimp, and conch, as well as Marie Sharp's hot sauces, Pitts said. She explained that once the mutually beneficial ECA comes into effect, Belize hopes to export other goods, such as beef, pork, and citrus products.

Belize has been importing ceiling, standing, and wall fans; bicycles; as well as umbrellas from Taiwan, according to the ambassador.

Pitts pointed out that September is usually a very patriotic and festive month for Belizeans, as Sept. 21 is the nation’s Independence Day. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Belize’s independence from the U.K.

On Friday (Sept. 17), the embassy will hold an online celebration at 3 p.m. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文); Belizean Prime Minister Juan Antonio Briceño; Saint Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to Taiwan Jasmine Huggins, who is the dean of the diplomatic core in Taiwan; as well as other diplomatic allies will be present.

There will be a few cultural performances, she said, adding that everyone in Taiwan is welcome to join the embassy in celebrating the 40th anniversary of Belize’s independence.

Looking back at how far Belize has come over the past four decades, the ambassador said that “independence and nationhood are critically important to our people and our country” and that it has given the country the opportunity to determine its own destiny and to chart its own course.

Independence has also enabled Belize to join certain organizations, such as Caribbean Community, the Organization of American States, the U.N, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Central American Integration System, she added.

The ambassador said this year’s theme, “Hopeful hearts, steady hands, together we rise,” brings messages of encouragement to Belizeans and serves as a reminder that “we have always been resilient, and we have fought off our oppressors in the past, and we have triumphed.” COVID-19 is another battle that we are fighting along with the world, Pitts said.

When asked if a travel bubble with Taiwan similar to that of Palau’s is a viable possibility, Pitts said it is a viable idea and that she is “curious” to see how it can be facilitated.

“The pandemic has forced us to think outside the box in terms of how we conduct our business, how we travel, and how we interact with other people,” she said.

In terms of current areas of cooperation, the ambassador listed economic exchanges, legal assistance, education, agriculture, healthcare, infrastructural development, and aviation services as fields the two countries have worked together in. However, she remarked that both nations need to work more closely on business investment, and there needs to be more knowledge transfer from Taiwan to Belize with regard to agriculture and healthcare.

Pitts said that there should also be more emphasis on female empowerment issues. “I personally believe it’s laudable that Tsai Ing-wen is an accomplished, proficient, effective woman,” she said, adding that there should be more opportunities to have more female empowerment in Belize.

The ambassador also suggested there be more investment in outsourcing services, as it could benefit both countries and create more employment in the Caribbean nation.

Though Pitts has been “severely restricted” by the pandemic, she said that she has enjoyed visiting Taiwan’s beaches, checking out different cities, and participating in cultural activities. Some memorable places she has been to include Shifen Waterfall, Yeliu Geological Park, and Yangmingshan.

Pitts also mentioned that Taiwan’s dumplings and sweet fungus soup (雪耳糖水) are her favorite dishes.

For Taiwanese visiting Belize, the ambassador said, “there is a place for every person,” hinting at the rich natural, cultural, and historical attractions that can satisfy anyone’s interests and preferences.

For city-loving travelers, she recommended touring Belize City and visiting historic sites such as the Anglican Cathedral College or the Isaiah Emmanuel Morter statue. Walking around Orange Walk Town is also a very rewarding experience, Pitts added.

For beachgoers, the ambassador suggested hopping on a boat from Belize City to any of the cayes or driving down to Placencia. Those who like peace and relaxation can travel to Corozal or to Toledo, Pitts said, adding that the drive on the Hummingbird Highway is one of Belize’s most scenic routes.

The ambassador expressed gratitude towards Taiwanese for the love and hospitality she has been shown for the roughly seventh months she has been in the East Asian nation. Additionally, she said Taiwanese “should be very proud that [their country] boasts one of the world’s sturdiest economies and that it remains a global leader of information and communication, and technology.”

Pitts said that as the Belizean ambassador to Taiwan, she hopes to further facilitate opportunities "that will help strengthen the cooperative efforts and the bond between the two countries."