DPP Chair and Presidential Candidate delivered a speech at the 2011 Annual General Meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan (AmCham). Below are her remarks:
Good afternoon, President Andrea Wu, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to be invited here by the American Chamber of Commerce to share my thoughts with you on the future challenges and opportunities facing Taiwan and Taiwan’s bilateral relations with the US. I see many friends and familiar faces in the audience today. Friends and people I have met over the last two decades either as a trade negotiator, or in my capacity as a minister, vice premier, or as a politician. It is my honor to be speaking to you today as the presidential candidate representing the Democratic Progressive Party, the DPP.
The friendship between Taiwan and the US dates back six decades. Over the sixty years, Taiwan and the US have not only been national security partners but the US is also one of Taiwan’s key economic and trading partners. The US government, as well as US businesses, have become our partners and our strongest support in managing globalization strategically.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008, nations around the world have undergone major changes. Many of them are experiencing the pain of economic re-balancing and structural adjustment. The global financial and economic orders are also yet to be fully re-constructed. We are facing unprecedented challenges. Despite the challenges, the Asia Pacific region, especially Asia, has demonstrated relative vitality and the potential for growth in the global economic downturn. We can foresee the region becoming the engine of global economic revitalization and the center of future development. In recent months, we are pleased to note that the US has pledged to increase its engagement with the region and expressed its determination to have more active presence in Asia. With the long-time tradition of the friendship and close business cooperation shared between Taiwan and the US, Taiwan will remain as an essential and crucial partner of the US in the region. We look forward to exploring ways of furthering our relationship and to developing a new strategic partnership.
Taiwan will hold its presidential election in January 2012. President Ma, like myself, has stressed the importance of the Taiwan-US relationship, and in particular, the balance in the trilateral relationship between Taiwan, US, and China; I must point out that since 2008, under the Ma administration, the speed of the development between Taiwan and China have far out-paced the relationship between Taiwan and the US. Restoring the balance in the trilateral relationship would be one of my key tasks in managing our external relations when I am elected president.
Close and Stable Taiwan-US Relations
I, like the majority of the Taiwanese people, cherish and value the close and stable US-Taiwan relationship we have always shared.
In the area of regional security, since the 1950s, the defense assistance provided by the US has been the bedrock for maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait. This security provided an environment free from Chinese military threats and allowed the people of Taiwan to pursue economic prosperity and universal values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights. With this, I wish to thank the continuing support from members of the AMCHAM for arms sales to Taiwan.
In the area of Taiwan-US economic relations, our partnership has evolved from the early days of US economic assistance in the 1950s, to the US becoming Taiwan’s largest trading partner and destination for our exported goods in the 1980s. Back then, almost half of our total export value was destined for the US. Today, the US remains our third largest trading partner. In 2010, trade between the two sides was valued at 56.8 billion US dollars. The economic importance of US to Taiwan actually far exceeds what the trade figures suggest.
The importance of the Taiwan-US business partnership can be illustrated by Taiwan’s role as the world’s leading IT supplier. Taiwan and US companies, along with Taiwan businesses in China, have successfully and firmly established an irreplaceable strategic business alliance in the IT industry, by “connecting the vast marketplaces and digital powerhouses of the US with the enormous manufacturing centers of China”, as described in a 2005 Business Week article and which remains just as true today.
Towards a New Strategic Partnership
I wish to use the opportunity today to point out that this is the best timing for furthering and developing a new strategic partnership between Taiwan and the US.
The financial crisis, coupled with the sovereign debt crisis, have led governments to realize that traditional monetary and financial policies are no longer sufficient tools in managing growing unemployment and re-building the economy. The only possible solution left for global economic recovery is to find new engines for economic growth and development.
Global trends are beginning to show that harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism and broadening cooperation with the region would be the key to leading the global economy forward. The US government has stressed the importance of the region and recent statements and actions by President Obama and Secretary Hilary Clinton have reflected the move in this direction. This is also a time when Taiwan is seeking to re-position itself in light of global economic and political re-structuring. At this critical juncture, I wish to call on establishing a new strategic partnership between Taiwan and the US for the following reasons:
One, both Taiwan and the US share common interest in, and responsibility for regional security and stability. Particularly with the rise of China, Taiwan and the US need to have even closer and stronger cooperation, in order to jointly maintain peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.
Second, for decades, Taiwan and the US have both been firm believers in, and committed to the principles of free trade. Taiwan has always kept pace with the US in forming its trading rules and regulations. This common basis allows greater room for cooperation when working towards establishing a trading order for the region.
Third, Taiwan and US’s tradition of business partnership will be mutually beneficial in exploring new and emerging markets, particularly for markets in this region. This has been demonstrated in the alliance for the IT-industry, with future opportunities including development of new and emerging industries, green industries, biotechnology, alternative energy, and so forth. There is much room for cooperation and mutual benefit. The traditional close business relationship and cooperation will help us explore new and emerging markets, particularly China, Southeast Asia, India, and even Central and South America. By taking advantage of the business alliance between Taiwan and US, we can be key contributors in the global economic recovery.
Future of Taiwan-US Relations
The future of the new strategic partnership would need efforts from both sides particularly on the following areas:
First of all, a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship is key to continuing Taiwan and US relations. When I am elected president next year, I will place great effort in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. This is my responsibility towards the 23 million people in Taiwan, and our responsibility as a member of the Asia Pacific region.
All indicators show that the presidential election will be a very close race. There is a real possibility that I will win. We understand that there are some people are worried about our victory. I will do what we can, without compromising Taiwan’s fundamental interests, to ease tensions and foster an atmosphere where dialogue and interaction is possible.
We are aware that cross-strait relations are a very important public policy matter, but in this election, there are other issues that are equally, if not more, important. These are issues relating to wealth gap, jobs, and the economy. Out of Taiwan’s long-term interest, my approach on cross-strait policy, during and after the election, is to build consensus, instead of driving a partisan wedge between different groups in Taiwan. In other words, we will not use cross-strait relations as a campaign tool. Our partisan differences in this election will be highlighted more in domestic policies.
Although there are constraints on our interactions with Chinese interlocutors during the election, we will be proactive in seeking dialogue and stabilizing the relationship immediately following the election, and throughout the transition period.
Secondly, in the area of Taiwan and US trade relations, I will pursue free trade policies and objectives, which I believe are the common goals shared by our two sides. I wish to point out that the Ma administration, over the past three years, has only actively pursued trade relations with China, the relationship was taken a step further with the signing of ECFA in June 2010. By contrast, over the last three years, Taiwan-US trade relations remained at a standstill.
Many of you would know that Taiwan’s keenest competitor in global trade is the Republic of Korea. It brings me much worry to see the signing and coming into effect of the FTAs between the EU and the Republic of Korea as well as the FTA between the US and the Republic of Korea. At the same time, there is little progress in the signing of FTAs between Taiwan and the US or any other major trading partner. I fully agree with AMCHAM’s continuing call on Taiwan concerning the importance of developing balanced trade relations. In this regard, there has not been much progress in the trade discussion between Taiwan and the US.
The DPP’s position has been that the US should take the lead in creating an APEC-based free trade agreement for the region, which would, of course, include Taiwan. I am, therefore, pleased to note that the US is spearheading the Trans Pacific Partnership (that is, the “TPP”) amongst APEC economies. When I visited the US last September, the issue of the TPP was also raised in some meetings. The TPP has high standards for entry and we must have the determination to prepare ourselves to join. Despite the Ma government’s recent announcement of the intention to join the TPP, we have yet to see the necessary determination and preparation made to facilitate such an effort.
In the “Ten Year Policy Platform” of the DPP, we recognized the immediate need to carry-out structural adjustment to the economy. We have a much more government involvement approach in helping the R&D phase of startups; in introducing focused programs to develop and modernize the agricultural sector; and in building infrastructure for developing close links between industries and local economies, and for accelerating the emergence of new industries, which include among others R&D as an industry of its own, green energy, long-term care and medical care. The aim is to improve our international competitiveness, and to create quality job opportunities. These policies will not only breathe new life into the Taiwan economy, but also will better prepare Taiwan for further liberalization of its markets in light of globalization. It is my belief that when DPP returns to the government, we will, in the shortest time possible, prepare Taiwan for joining the TPP. At the same time, we remain hopeful that the US and members of AMCHAM will provide us with the full support in working towards the common goal of a Taiwan-US FTA and membership in the TPP.
In addition, I should strengthen and promote Taiwan and US exchanges. We should be enhancing the function and operation of TIFA and, on this basis, establish mechanisms to facilitate regular visits between high-level officials; not only would this be conducive to resolving outstanding issues, but it would contribute to furthering communication and understanding between the two sides for the way forward.
It is, therefore, important to take action as soon as possible to resolve some of the outstanding disputes in our trade relationship, so that there will be opportunities to build on TIFA and to move forward from there.
Once elected, I will proactively manage the political complications arising from certain existing bilateral trade issues, so as to minimize the impact on our trade relationship with the US. They must be settled with the best long-term interests of the Taiwanese people in mind, which involves more open and closer trade relations with the US.
We will take steps to facilitate the mobility of international professionals and senior managerial personnel in and out of Taiwan, which we understand is an area that has concerned AMCHAM. Taiwan has a need for quality talent but we must first remove current administrative and legal constraints. Under the Ma government, the number of foreign laborers increased by 16 percent compared to that of 2007. However, by contrast, the number of international professionals decreased by 8 percent during the same period. This trend is taking us in the opposite direction of upgrading the quality of our human capital. Therefore, I propose introducing special regulations, or even legislation, to remove obstacles preventing the entry of senior experts and professionals.
When the DPP was in the government, Taiwan and the US enjoyed direct communication with each other, working together in resolving trade issues and developing mutual understanding. I wish to take this opportunity to re-assure you that when the DPP is in the government again, the team will place quality communication as its highest priority. At the same time, I am confident that communications between the DPP government, and the US government and AMCHAM will much improve so that AMCHAM’s current complaints on government efficiency will be reduced drastically. I mean drastically.
I am confident that I’m going to win the presidential election next year. I am looking forward to a prosperous future for Taiwan and US relations, particularly in establishing a new strategic partnership. I am hopeful that we will be moving towards furthering and deepening our relationship, creating greater mutual benefits between Taiwan and the US and creating greater benefits for the Asia Pacific region.
Thank you, and I wish you all good health and prosperity.