台灣迄今未能獲得足量疫苗供國人施打,本來單純是疫苗製造商與台灣政府之間的商業行為,現卻被衍生詮釋為台灣的外交問題。將原因歸咎於台灣在國際間受到政治打壓,這對於台灣想即時爭取疫苗真的有幫助嗎?

自從台灣疫情爆發,人人口中都在詢問疫苗從哪來、在哪裡?這幾天有位住在台灣的美國朋友問我美國共和黨海外部是否有在積極動作、幫忙聯絡美國向台灣提供疫苗。雖然我已從共和黨卸職,但對於他的問題我有著很明確的回答:「這種做法並不可取,因為台灣的疫苗取得是台灣政府的責任,而非任何外國政黨的責任。」

雖然台灣政府之前對新冠肺炎的因應措施普遍得到世界認可,但在台灣疫情爆發之後政府並未重視台灣內部政黨、地方政府、或個人所提出的疫苗採購提案與建議,反倒將採購疫苗的重點託付於其他國家,似乎有點本末倒置。

另一個出現在台灣的特殊「疫苗外交」現象是自2020年3月起,由於旅行中斷,許多外籍人士滯留在台,台灣政府釋出善意,一次又一次提供他們在台延長簽證並得以延長在台的停留時間。這些外籍人士原本只是暫時來台,有的卻一待就待了一年多。他們無須繳稅,亦未加入健保制度。許多民眾或許並不知道,台灣政府於2021年4月曾短暫開放所有人接種阿斯利康(AstraZeneca)疫苗,連這些短期來台的外籍人士也可以自費施打。

在當時台灣疫情雖未爆發,但在疫苗數量有限的情況下,本應提供一線醫務人員及其他重點族群優先施打,然而政府也同時大方開放了所有人(包括讓短期來台的外籍人士)均可以自費施打疫苗。或許台灣政府基於人道主義立場或外交利益有其考量,讓暫時停留台灣的外籍人士施打疫苗,難怪台北被外國人票選為全球最適合移居的城市。

今年5月26日,美國在台協會酈英傑處長(Brent Christensen )發出聲明強調台灣的確診者數相對少。6月2日,德國在台協會王子陶處長(Thomas Prinz) 也發表聲明指出台灣欲從德國BioNTech購買疫苗屬於商業行為,而這個商業契約簽訂與否取決於契約雙方,德國政府無力介入。為什麼這些外國駐台代表要異口同聲暗示台灣政府別對他們幫忙爭取疫苗抱持著太大的期望?

在5月28 日,美國向台灣發送首批15萬劑莫德納疫苗,美國在台協會立刻在臉書發布此消息,並在文末加上「Real Friends Real Progress」 標籤。 許多台灣的政治人物也立刻熱烈響應,在社群媒體上大發感謝文,高聲呼喊「真朋友、真進展」口號。

這樣的群體興奮感我們再熟悉不過,正如不久中國禁止了台灣鳳梨進口的當下,大家群起吃鳳梨拍照打卡的風潮,台灣社交媒體上的興奮度到底是否與台灣的鳳梨農們的收益成正比?而在社交媒體上狂熱感謝他國捐贈疫苗,究竟對於台灣獲得疫苗有何實質幫助,也令人質疑。

事實上,我認為值得關注的看點在於2020年3月18日,美國在台協會和台灣外交部發表了一份聯合聲明中提到,美台雙方會對於疫苗的研發與製造加緊合作,這個倡議不知後續發展得如何?至今似乎乏人問津。

近日台灣收到了日本捐贈的第一批AZ疫苗,雖然此類疫苗尚未在日本境內施打,但對台灣而言卻如同缺水獲得了一場及時雨一般。疫苗抵達當天,全台歡欣鼓舞,強力表達對於日本政府的感謝。

在這一片台日友好的溫馨場面之中,卻突兀地出現了一則新聞,吸引了我的注意:台南市長黃偉哲晚間透過臉書宣布,「在台南日本人優先施打疫苗」。日本政府表示,這批疫苗捐贈是為了報答台灣在日本311大地震時對日本施與慷慨的賑災援助。那麼以台南市長的邏輯,在當時的賑災過程之中,日本地方政府是否也應該宣布,在日本的台灣人應當優先獲得來自台灣的援助?

有鑑於美國和德國駐台代表所發出之聲明,台灣政府應該釐清我們對於他國捐贈疫苗的意義與期望。會錯意或過度解讀,都對台灣的外交立場沒有任何幫助。

儘管最近日本政府似乎頻頻對台灣釋出善意,像是將原名為「公益財團法人交流協會」的日本駐台機構更名為「公益財團法人日本台灣交流協會」、雙方政府官員在社交平台上友好互動,但日本政府實際上並未延續許多與台灣在馬政府時代簽下的雙邊合作協議細項,截至目前,日本亦未表明將幫助台灣加入跨太平洋夥伴全面進步協定(CPTPP)的簽署,更未與台灣一同公開強化任何軍事或區域安全之合作。

此外,台灣外交部在感謝日本的聲明中強調了「民主國家之間互助」這個重點,這既不符合日本向非民主國家(如越南)捐贈疫苗的計畫,也與日本向全球疫苗平台COVAX大筆捐款確保許多非民主國家獲得疫苗的事實相違背。事實上,中華民國僅存的幾個邦交國之中有一些並非民主國家。

台灣政府帶頭呼喊的「Health for All─Taiwan Can Help」讓台灣加入世界衛生組織的口號相信大家仍耳熟能詳,難道「Health for all」的all還有條件限定?必須是民主國家政體才能共享疫苗?

台灣政府未能及時獲得足夠數量疫苗的原因,可以簡單歸結為台灣政府長久以來的官僚結構導致重大決策的運行低效,這與台灣被世界衛生組織排除在外或台灣缺乏邦交國等因素並無關連。若將獲得疫苗視為外交的籌碼,台灣民眾的疫苗接種恐怕會遙遙無期。

(作者為前美國共和黨亞太區主席)

英文全文:

Foreign Policy ≠ Vaccine Policy

By Ross Darrell Feingold

Former Asia Chairman, Republicans Abroad

One outcome from Taiwan’s failure to date to timely acquire a sufficient quantity of vaccines is that what in reality should be a commercial relationship between the manufacturers and Taiwan’s government, has unnecessarily become a foreign policy matter that certain Taiwan politicians and other individuals in Taiwan are seeking to exploit. Is this really necessary, and is it helpful for Taiwan’s efforts to acquire vaccines?

An American citizen who lives in Taiwan recently contacted me to ask if the Republicans Overseas organization is doing a letter writing campaign to encourage the United States to provide vaccines to Taiwan. Although I am not currently involved in the Republicans Overseas organization, I had a simple reply for this American: I would not support that, and it is the Taiwan government that is responsible for vaccines, not foreign political parties. It would be a disappointment if the Taiwan government, which was previously universally recognized for its response to COVID-19, needed to outsource part of its own efforts to acquire vaccines to foreign political parties, even if Taiwan’s other domestic political parties or local government leaders have attempted to engage in vaccine acquisition diplomacy.

Another peculiar type of vaccine diplomacy in Taiwan was that the Taiwan government allowed foreigners who have remained in Taiwan from when travel disruption began in March 2020 to receive vaccines during the brief period that began in April when people could pay out-of-pocket for the AstraZeneca vaccines that were available in Taiwan at the time. Although many in Taiwan are unaware, there is a population of foreigners for whom the government has repeatedly extended their right to remain in Taiwan. These foreigners who do not pay taxes or participate in the National Health Insurance system. However, even though the limited number of vaccines available at the time should have been provided to first line medical workers and other priority persons, these foreigners could also pay for a vaccine. What humanitarian or diplomatic benefit Taiwan could gain from this is unknown, and probably limited.

On May 26, American Institute in Taiwan Taipei Office Director Brent Christensen (酈英傑) issued a statement in which he emphasized Taiwan’s relatively small amount of COVID-19 cases. Similarly, on June 2, 2021 the Director General of German Institute Taipei Thomas Prinz (王子陶) issued a statement which emphasized that Taiwan’s effort to purchase vaccines from BioNTech is a matter outside the control of the German government. It is no surprise that these foreign country representatives sought to manage Taiwan’s expectations for the amount of vaccines that their governments could provide Taiwan. In fact, subsequently, on May 28 the United States announced 150,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine would be sent to Taiwan, which AIT announced with a Facebook message that included the #RealFriendsRealProgress hashtag. This was quickly followed by Taiwan politicians repeating #RealFreindsRealProgress on their own Facebook pages. The excitement over this small amount of vaccines is similar to the over reaction in Taiwan to the foreign governments or foreign politicians who published social media messages with Taiwan pineapples after China banned imports of Taiwan pineapples earlier this year. Just as one time photos of foreigners eating pineapples (and the excited response on social media in Taiwan) does not result in substantive sales opportunities for Taiwan pineapple growers, hashtags or letter writing campaigns will not help Taiwan address its failures to acquire vaccines.

In fact, on March 18, 2020, the American Institute in Taiwan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a joint statement that both sides will seek to share best practices and cooperate on a range of activities under a partnership that included research and production of vaccines. People in Taiwan should ask what became of this initiative.

As for Japan’ recent donation of AstraZeneca vaccine doses that Japan purchased but has not used for its own citizens, certainly an expression of thank you from the government and people of Taiwan is appropriate. However, Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che’s (黃偉哲) announcement that Japanese nationals in Tainan City would receive priority to be vaccinated was a surprise. According to the Japanese government, the donation is to thank Taiwan for aid provided in response to the 2011 T?hoku earthquake and tsunami (東北地方太平洋沖地震). There is no record of Japanese local governments announcing at the time that Taiwan nationals in Japan would receive first priority for the aid provided by Taiwan. Similar to the expectations management by the United States and Germany, we should manage our expectations for the significance of the Japan vaccine donation. Although in recent years Japan has made gestures such as the change in the name of Japan’s representative office in Taipei or the exchange of social media messages with Taiwan’s leadership following disasters in each country, Japan has yet to enter into substantive agreements with Taiwan on the range of issues as which occurred during Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency, and as of now, Japan has yet to indicate it will help Taiwan enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (跨太平洋夥伴全面進步協定) or engage in a more substantive and public security relationship.

However, in thanking Japan, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized this as democracies assisting each other. This is inconsistent with Japan’s plans to donate vaccines to non-democratic countries such as Vietnam, or Japan’s large donation to a large amount of money to COVAX which will ensure many non-democratic countries receive vaccines, or the reality that several of the non-democratic countries which formally recognize the Republic of China are also in desperate need of vaccines. If the Taiwan government’s claim that “The goal “Health for All” can be achieved earlier only by allowing Taiwan to join the WHO” and the continued use by the Taiwan government of the slogan “Health for All – Taiwan Can Help” are to believed, then Taiwan should not encourage the sharing of vaccines only among democracies.

The Taiwan government’s failure to timely acquire a sufficient quantity of vaccines will ultimately prove to be from the bureaucratic inefficiency of Taiwan’s government and not due to Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization, the limited donations of vaccines by Germany, Japan, the United States or any other issue that arises from Taiwan’s lack of formal diplomatic relations with the world’s major countries. Attempting to make vaccine acquisition a foreign policy victory is unlikely to resolve the reasons why Taiwan lags far behind other countries in vaccinating its population.

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