(As Prepared for Delivery)
Former Vice President Siew, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang, National Security Council Secretary General Yuan, Foreign Minister Lin, Ladies and gentlemen: Good afternoon!
Thanks for joining us to celebrate the 237th birthday of the United States of America. On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the founding of our nation, and reflect on the values upon which it was founded – values such as freedom and democracy.
Those same values are shared by the people of Taiwan, and they underpin the enduring friendship, and strong bonds that define our relations.
My wife Loretta and I appreciate the warm welcome and friendship you have shown us since we returned to Taiwan last September. Americans who live on Taiwan very much appreciate the long tradition of warmth and hospitality that is a mark of your culture.
We would like to reciprocate a bit of that today, with our theme for today’s celebration “Welcome to America.”
Last fall we opened an exhibit entitled “Immigrants Building America.” It chronicled the tremendously positive impact that immigrants from Taiwan and mainland China have had in the United States. Through words and images, it conveyed the countless ways your culture continues to enrich our own and advance human progress, whether that be in science, the arts, athletics or academia.
“The American Dream,” another exhibit AIT developed with local partners, recounts the experiences of generations of Taiwan students who went to the United States to earn higher level degrees.
Whether those students remained to adopt the United States as their new home, or, like many of you here today, returned to Taiwan, they contributed their knowledge, talent and commitment together with others to generate prosperity and build more just, open and civil societies.
Today, we are continuing to build on that foundation of cooperation and partnership, to further expand and deepen our ties.
Taiwan’s entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program last year has greatly simplified travel for business and tourism, and is creating new opportunities to expand economic growth and enhance mutual understanding.
We took a major step toward reinvigorating our economic and trade relationship with the resumption of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks this past March.
We recently celebrated the twentieth anniversary of U.S.-Taiwan cooperation in environmental protection. That cooperation has produced tangible, measurable results, which are helping to provide a healthy and safe environment for present and future generations.
Taiwan is a valuable partner in our joint efforts to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking. For the fourth year in a row, Taiwan received the highest ranking for significant accomplishments in combating trafficking in the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
These are just a few of the examples of the important ways our two democracies are working together in common cause. We at AIT are grateful to our friends and partners throughout Taiwan for your shared commitment, activism and hard work in addressing the opportunities and challenges we face.
So as we commemorate America’s 237th birthday, let us also today celebrate the fruits of our long-running cooperation and friendship. Speaking of fruits, I visited mango farmer Mr. Cheng in Yujing, Tainan the day before yesterday. Just over 50 years ago, Mr. Cheng grafted samplings from Irwin mango trees raised in Florida on to native Taiwan mango trees. This experiment, assisted at that time by the United States Agency for International Development, later resulted in the successful commercial production of Irwin (愛文) mangoes throughout southern Taiwan. So these delicious mangoes are literally a fruit of the strong ties of partnership between the U.S. and Taiwan. We look forward to continuing to work together to nurture, protect, and promote the values of freedom, respect for the dignity of individuals, and economic and environmental progress.
Allow me to offer a toast — to the people of Taiwan and the people of the United States, and to our enduring friendship.