AIT Director Christopher J. Marut Press Conference October 3, 2012 [Video]

AIT Director Christopher J. Marut Press Conference October 3, 2012

OT-1209E | Date: 10/03/2012 | Transcript

Director Marut:  Good morning everyone.  Thank you for coming here today.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Mid-Autumn Festival.

Before I start I just would like to introduce the Deputy Director of AIT, Mr. Brent Christensen.  Brent arrived a couple of months before me.  Perhaps many of you have not yet met him.  Thank you, Brent.

You’ve all heard the big news. Yesterday evening the Department of Homeland Security announced that Taiwan will become a part of the Visa Waiver Program.  This is a very positive development for both Taiwan and the United States.  It will mean increased business, increased travel, which will benefit both of us.  It is a testament to the achievements of the people of Taiwan.  I want to thank everyone involved on both the Taiwan and United States sides for all their hard work.

This is a new, exciting move forward in our relationship and it’s a great time to be here in Taiwan.

My wife, Loretta, and I are very excited to be back here.  As you may know, I served here many years ago at the American Institute in Taiwan, and both of our children were born here.  We’ve just been here for under three weeks and I’ve remarked to several people about the many positive changes that we have seen in Taiwan and the progress that we’ve seen since returning.  But one thing that hasn’t changed is the genuine warmth, the friendliness, and the hospitality of the Taiwan people.

I’m really looking forward to building on the success of my predecessors to deepen and diversify the broad economic, the educational, the cultural, the social, and the security ties that bind our two peoples, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act.

There are a number of prominent issues that are going to occupy me right away.  Taiwan is our 10th largest trading partner, our 15th largest export market, and our 6th biggest market for exported food and agricultural products.  I’ll be working to advance our trade relationship and expanding our exports even more so that we can meet President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.  And also encouraging Taiwan investment and manufacturing in the United States.

Now that the beef issue has been addressed and larger volumes of U.S. beef are entering the Taiwan market, I’m hopeful that we will make progress in advancing our broader economic dialogue. APEC Senior Official Atul Keshap’s visit here last week was a great testament to our commitment to deepening the U.S.-Taiwan trade relationship.  As he noted when he was here, the U.S. Trade Representative will send a delegation to Taiwan later this month to continue discussions.

Security cooperation is one of the strongest elements of our overall relationship.  I intend to continue supporting those efforts, which have contributed to the security and stability of the region.

I’m also going to be focused on our new office compound in Neihu.  After receiving full funding earlier this year, the construction of the new office compound is nearing its next stage with the imminent award of the Phase Two contract, which will also include the main five story building in the compound.  Our energy efficient facility will mark a new, exciting level of our relationship with Taiwan and demonstrate our commitment to furthering our common interests in the future.

Finally, I hope to see further visits to Taiwan by senior officials from Washington.  In addition to Atul Keshap, in the past year, just to review, Taiwan has received Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Suresh Kumar, USAID Administrative Rajiv Shah, Energy Department Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman, State Department Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez, and State Department Coordinator for International Information Programs Dawn McCall.  Those high level visits reflect the importance of our bilateral relationship.

I am very much looking forward to my time in Taiwan and to being able to continue building and strengthening the relationship between Taiwan and the United States.

With that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Question:  Welcome to Taiwan, first.  I’d like to know, you’ve just mentioned that you are looking forward to deepening ties, especially in the education and cultural interactions with Taiwan.  I’d like to know specifically what do you have in mind?  Do you have any new plans for that?

The second question is: you’ve just mentioned the Neihu Compound is going to be completed.  Does AIT already have a schedule for moving into this compound?  When will be the grand opening?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  Thank you very much.  With regard to deepening educational and cultural ties, it just strikes me that given the extent of interaction and exchange between our two sides, which is very deep and very broad right now, we can still do a lot more.  There are over 27,000 students from Taiwan who study in the United States.  I think that’s our fourth or fifth largest number of students internationally that go to the United States.  But I think on a per capita basis that, perhaps, is number one.

I know Taiwan has just established a new Ministry of Culture and I had an opportunity just before I left Washington to meet with the new minister.  I’m looking forward to sitting down with my team and with her and others to look at areas where we can expand our cooperation.

Then with respect to your second question on the new office compound, we’re aiming for the summer of 2015 for completion, but as someone who has been at this business for a while, as you know, those dates are always subject to a wide variety of influences.

Question:  Thank you, Ambassador.  Radio Free Asia.

You just talked about the security issues simply.  So may I ask a question about could Taiwan expect any progress of arms sales in the next two or three years?  Especially the sensitive items such as diesel submarines or next generation fighters?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  Thank you.  We take seriously our commitments to Taiwan’s defense as outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act.  And our commitment is reflected in the sales over – in 2010 and 2011 – of around $12.5 billion in arms to Taiwan.  Those sales have made a significant contribution to Taiwan’s air defense capabilities including by upgrading the backbone capability of Taiwan’s air force.

With respect to possible future sales, I cannot comment at this point; just to say that we take our commitments under the TRA very seriously, and a wide variety of U.S. government agencies all continue to consider how best to assist Taiwan.

Question:  My name is Yu-tzu, Chiu, correspondent for Washington, DC-based BNA.

My question will be about TIFA talks.  I would like to know, do you have more details about the next round of TIFA talks?  And I would like to know which areas will be particularly focused?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  Thank you.  We are working with our Taiwan counterparts and we’re consulting with U.S. stakeholders to explore the next steps in our bilateral trade dialogue including with regard to the TIFA or Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks.  No decision has been made yet on when to resume those talks, but as I mentioned, an interagency team will be visiting form Washington later this month to conduct expert level talks on a wide range of trade issues of interest to both sides.

Question:  Hi, Kyoto News.

I’d like to follow up on the TIFA talks.  As TIFA talks will likely begin by the end of this year, do you project any areas of disagreement, like the beef controversy?

Secondly, how do you suppose China will react to a Taiwan-U.S. trade pact, the first one besides those with Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and China itself?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  First, I don’t want to speculate on when TIFA talks will begin.  No decision has been made yet on resuming TIFA talks.

With respect to any reaction by China, it’s a hypothetical question and I’m not in a position to address that.

Question:  Good morning.  My name is Peter Enav, from the Associated Press.

My understanding, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that Mr. Lippert will not be attending the U.S.-Taiwan annual security dialogue that’s taking place in Hershey in Pennsylvania, which marks the first time that someone of his rank will not be attending in some years.

What do you ascribe the absence of someone of his rank to?  Is it a reflection of any dissatisfaction with the contretemps between Taiwan and Japan around the Diaoyutai, or Senkaku, islands last week?  Or is there another factor involved?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  Thank you.  No, I don’t think it’s a reflection of any dissatisfaction with respect to that.

Look, the conference in question is a private industry event and it’s not an official event.  The United States places great importance on its relationship with Taiwan.  It remains committed to assist Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense as provided under the Taiwan Relations Act.  To that end the Department of Defense maintains robust and regular dialogues with Taiwan on defense and security issues, both with Taiwan civilian and military authorities.  These are really key channels of communication.

Due to schedule conflicts — I said due to schedule conflicts — the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense is unable to attend the conference this year.  Other senior DoD officials will attend the meeting, however.

Question:  Amber Wang, AFP.

How does the U.S. interpret Taiwan’s recent action in the Diaoyu Island dispute?  And what kind of road the U.S. hopes Taiwan will take?  And for the recent actions, do you think they are helpful to resolving the dispute or do they further complicate the matter?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  Let me just say on that that the East China Sea issue is one that the claimants must resolve among themselves.  The U.S. encourages them to do so in a peaceful manner.  We want all parties involved to work this out through dialogue.

Question:  [Inaudible]?

Director Marut:  I will stay with the statement I made.

Question:  My name is Shih Hsiu-chuan, I’m from Taipei Times.

I have questions regarding the Diaoyutai issue.  President Ma has a proposal to resolve the East China Sea dispute.  [Inaudible] Taiwan, China and Japan started with three sets of bilateral dialogue and then evolve into a set of trilateral dialogue.  So the U.S. is not involved if the mechanism is established.

What sort of reaction the U.S. government has for the proposal?

Secondly, what is the level of concern the U.S. has about the possibility that Taiwan will team up with China to, in their assertion of sovereignty over Diaoyutai islands.  Thank you.

Director Marut:  Again, I just want to repeat what I just said with respect to the East China Sea.  It’s an issue that the claimants must resolve among themselves.

The second question really is a hypothetical and I don’t want to get into that either.  Thank you.

I will just add that I believe the authorities here have said that they, on several occasions I believe, that they are not teaming up with China.

Question:  Sir, Patrick Zoll, from Switzerland.

Another question to the Diaoyutai, Senkaku islands–I’m sorry about that.

Both sides have very….Japan and Taiwan have close military ties with the U.S., both are armed to their teeth with U.S. weapons.  Are you taking any concrete steps to make sure that no accident happens, that this conflict doesn’t get out of hand?

Director Marut:  We have consistently urged that all sides do nothing to further escalate tensions.  Any miscalculations could result in serious consequences.

Question:  Thank you.  My name’s Sarah Mishkin, I’m a correspondent with The Financial Times here.

Just a quick question on security issues, but a bit more broadly.  President Obama has spoken quite a lot about his policy of pivoting towards Asia, and I was just curious what your view is on what this means for Taiwan, what this means for the role that the AIT plays in Taiwan, and maybe how you’ve seen some of President Obama’s pivot towards Asia play out in your work here.

Director Marut:  Well, as you know, as Secretary Clinton has said, one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decades will be to lock in substantially increased investment.  That includes diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise in the region.  The United States is a Pacific nation and the Asia Pacific is of growing importance.

We are a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits workers and business on both sides of the Pacific, a host to over 350,000 Asian students every year including 27,000-plus, I believe, from Taiwan, and a champion of open markets and an advocate of universal human rights.

Certainly as a major component of the so-called pivot or the rebalance, the United States is looking to expand trade and cooperation as part of its overall focus on Asia.  Taiwan is an important security and economic partner in the region.

Question:  My name is Emmazuelle Tzeng from Central News Agency based in Taipei.

When it comes to bilateral trade issues we know that the U.S. has expressed concerns over Taiwan’s rise inport system and standards on pesticides and agrochemicals and so on.  I’d like to know what kind of development do you want to see before we really begin TIFA talks?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  I would leave a response to that to the trade experts.  I’ve been here for three weeks.  I don’t feel that’s quite enough time for me to answer that with great accuracy.

But as I said, we are going to be welcoming a delegation here sometime during October to engage in broader talks.  We’ll see what comes out of that.

Question:  My name is Jenny Hsu from the Wall Street Journal.

I have two questions.  Now that the beef battle has been finished, the next question that is on a lot of people’s mind is that would the U.S. now try to push pork containing ractopamine into the Taiwan market?  Is that the next in line?

And another question is early in your comments you said one of the things that you look forward to is to increase the security ties between Taiwan and the U.S.  Since I know you won’t comment on any new possible arms sales are there any new developments or new plans, on maybe the military training of Taiwan military from the U.S.?

And if I could add one more question to the end, now you said you are looking forward to more high-ranking U.S. officials to come to Taiwan.  Is there any possible chance to lift the ban on high-ranking Taiwanese officials to travel to the U.S.?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  Thank you very much.

Let’s start with the first one, with respect to the MRL now being resolved and beef imports moving in.  You asked about pork.  As you know in July the CODEX [Alimentarioas] Commission, the International Organization on Food Safety approved safe residue levels of ractopamine in beef and pork.  I would just say that as with all our trading partners, the United States has consistently urged Taiwan to ensure that its food safety measures are based on science and consistent with international standards.

With regard to military or security cooperation, we of course have a broad ranging cooperation and ongoing dialogue in a number of different areas.  Again, not commenting on any specifics, but we are always in the process of our dialogue looking for areas where the United States and Taiwan can increase our cooperation within the context of our One China Policy and the Taiwan Relations Act.

With regard to other high-ranking visits, I can’t comment on specifics of what visitors might be coming in the future.  We’ll just continue to look for opportunities on both sides.

Question:  [Inaudible]?

Director Marut:  I would just leave it at that.

Question:  Good morning, Tim Culpan from Bloomberg News.

I’m interested to know your views on the closer relationship between China and Taiwan.  What challenges and strategic concerns may be arising from that closer relationship for the United States?

Secondary to that, in the few years that you will be in Taiwan, you’ve discussed a lot of issues that you would like to address and get progress on.  I was wondering if you could pick for us just one of those that you see will be perhaps the largest challenge or may face the largest obstacles in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship over the next few years?

Director Marut:  With regard to cross-straits issues, again, if you could just repeat your question, the first one?  I’m sorry.

Question:  The closer relationship between Taiwan and China, what concerns or challenges is that presenting for the United States?

Director Marut:  Well if I could just say that the United States certainly supports the reduction in tensions across the Taiwan Straits and the increased interaction that is resulting in increased understanding between the two sides.

With respect to key issues that I see moving forward, I think certainly on the trade side we’ve got a lot of work to do.  The TIFA talks have not been held since 2007.  There’s a lot of interaction and I think rebuilding of trust that has to take place between the two sides.  And as you know, we have embarked, both sides have embarked on that process.  The lifting of the MRL on beef is important.  Atul Keshap’s visit is important.  And of course the upcoming visit will continue that process forward.  There are other things, but I would focus on that as a key issue.

Question:  I just wanted to follow up.  I note your positive views on the reduced tension and increased relationship, but my question is really about the challenges that that increased relationship and reduced tensions may be bringing to the United States.

Director Marut:  I think that as the relationship moves forward, and it’s certainly moving forward on a number of different levels, I think Taiwan is also working to diversify its trade relations across the region, which again is not so much a challenge, I see that as a positive.  So I would just say that I view this very positively.

We haven’t gotten one question on the Visa Waiver Program yet.  [Laughter].

Question:  Jane Rickards, with AmCham’s magazine Topics, and also The Economist Magazine.

I’m just wondering whether you can tell us when Taiwan will enter the TPP, if that is still a plan.

Do you think the TPP can ever realistically balance or provide a realistic alternative to the network of trade relationships China’s built up with the ASEAN countries?  Because China’s signed a lot of free trade agreements with ASEAN.

How realistic, when do you think the TPP’s really going to take off?  Thanks.

Director Marut:  TPP is a very ambitious initiative that’s going to offer benefits to the dynamic economies of the Asia Pacific region.  The addition of new members in TPP is based strictly on consensus of the current members.  TPP members and interested candidates, along with meeting other stringent requirements, must demonstrate serious commitment and effort towards the principles of free, open, and fair trade and policies and practices.

The Ma administration has set itself a goal of joining TPP within eight years.  We think this indicates that Taiwan understands that it has work to do to prepare itself for possible entry into the TPP and that discussion of Taiwan’s possible future inclusion in TPP is premature.

From the U.S. perspective, the current priority should be for Taiwan to rebuild confidence in our bilateral trade relationship.

TPP is, let me call it a ‘gold standard’ type of trade agreement.  These various trade arrangements are certainly not zero sum outcomes, so I think that it’s very premature to speculate where things might be out into the future, but I think we’re very optimistic.

Question:  I’m Ralph Jennings from the Christian Science Monitor.  I have a question about the Visa Waiver.  [Laughter].

How does that decision change or affect long-term Taiwan-U.S. relations?  And has China stated any kind of reaction to the decision?  Thank you.

Director Marut:  I think as I said in my introductory remarks, it’s a very significant event for the United States and Taiwan.  At its most fundamental level, it’s going to make it a heck of a lot easier for tourists and business people to travel to the United States.  I think last year, and Morgan correct me if I’m wrong, we issued about 98,000?  Sorry, about 100,000 tourist visas for people traveling from Taiwan to the United States.  So we think this is going to increase business opportunities, it’s going to increase interaction, increase the intensity, increase the frequency, I think, of interaction both in Taiwan and the United States.  That’s going to be good for our social, our business, our cultural, our economic ties.  It’s going to be good for business.  It’s going to be good for employment on both sides, both in Taiwan and the United States.

I’m sorry, the second part of your question?

Question:  Has China said anything about Taiwan’s visa waiver?

Director Marut:  I’m not aware of any statement they may have made.  Thank you.

Again, thank you all very much for coming today.  I look forward to future opportunities to talk with you and getting to know you better.  Thanks so much.

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