- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

Hungarian dilemma

The Hungarian ambassador yesterday said his government is committed to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq despite a refusal by the Hungarian parliament yesterday to extend the deployment of the country’s troops there.

“I personally regret that the decision was made,” Ambassador Andras Simonyi said. “The Hungarian government will be considering other possibilities.”

He said his government could send troops as part of a NATO contingent if the trans-Atlantic alliance dispatches forces to Iraq. That decision would not require parliament’s approval, he said.

The government needed a two-thirds majority to approve an extension of a Dec. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of 300 Hungarian troops who are engaged in the dangerous task of transporting supplies. Terrorists repeatedly have targeted military convoys in Iraq.

Mr. Simonyi said the government received a “pretty solid majority” of 191 votes, but 153 parliamentarians voted to withdraw the troops.

“The Hungarian government didn’t have the intention of jumping the boat. We wanted to finish the job we started,” he said.

The government argued for keeping the troops in Iraq at least through March to help provide stability after the planned January elections.

Dominican diplomacy

Many Caribbean leaders are worried they will lose their trade niche in the U.S. market to China, but the ambassador of the Dominican Republic believes he has found a way to avoid economic calamity.

Ambassador Hugo Guilliani, who visited four Chinese cities recently, hopes his country will attract Chinese investors to build factories in the Dominican Republic to produce goods for the U.S. market.

He said his colleagues fear the gradual phaseout of trade advantages under the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative will make their countries less competitive with China, with its aggressive trade policies and cheaper labor costs.

However, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean-region nations will gain another advantage through a free-trade agreement with the United States, the ambassador said.

Goods produced in the Dominican Republic would have duty-free access to the United States, although China still would face normal trade tariffs, he said.

“The Chinese have a vision, and they are interested in the Dominican Republic,” Mr. Guilliani told Embassy Row.

China’s potential investment would come with a catch, however. The Dominican Republic is one of the few nations that recognize the democratic government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the sole representative of the Chinese people. China will demand that the Dominican Republic cut ties with Taiwan and recognize the communist government in Beijing, Mr. Guilliani said. His government has not made that decision.

The ambassador said his interest is more economic than political. He wants to keep jobs in the Dominican Republic, even if Dominicans work for Chinese bosses.

“At the moment, everybody is worried. They are asking, ‘How can I protect myself against the Chinese.’ I say, ‘Let’s attract the Chinese. Let’s have them with us,’” Mr. Guilliani said.

He predicted that his country could become a hub for Chinese trade in the Western Hemisphere, pointing out that the Dominican Republic has six international airports and a state-of-the-art port for container shipments.

On another issue, Mr. Guilliani said he is distressed over the future of Haiti, his country’s neighbor on the island of Hispaniola.

“I fear it will fail again, as it has failed in the past,” he said. “Haiti is a country that doesn’t have the institutions to make democracy possible.”

Mr. Guilliani urged the United States and other Western nations to help Haiti build roads and other infrastructure, as well as governmental systems such as police, courts and a functioning legislature.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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