(As Prepared for Delivery)
Thank you, Bob.
Deputy Director General Hsiao, Director General Ting, Chairman Tsou, Distinguished Guests, Good afternoon.
First of all, on behalf of all of my AIT colleagues, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy to the families who lost their loved ones, and to those who were injured during the recent tragedies that took place in Penghu and Kaohsiung. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and with the people of Taiwan.
If I may, I would like to ask that you all join me in a minute of silence for the victims…
Kaohsiung is a prosperous and resilient city, and AIT has always cherished being part of this vibrant community. Today I am honored to join my colleagues to dedicate our new AIT Branch Office in this beautiful China Steel Building, which demonstrates our commitment to southern Taiwan.
As with AIT Taipei, AIT Kaohsiung was established in 1979 following the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act, which serves as the cornerstone of relations between the people of the United States and Taiwan. It is particularly appropriate in this 35th anniversary year of the TRA to begin this new chapter with the dedication of our office. I know our new Branch Chief, Bob DeWitt, and AIT Kaohsiung’s staff are eager to further deepen our traditionally close relations with southern Taiwan, from Chiayi to Pingtung and from Penghu to Taitung, in a wide range of areas.
We look forward to expanding our robust trade and investment ties. This includes showcasing U.S. products and tourism opportunities at trade shows, including at the shimmering new Kaohsiung Exhibition Convention Center. Last year, I was pleased to accompany several business leaders from southern Taiwan to the SelectUSA Summit hosted by President Obama in Washington, DC.
As you know, we conduct numerous educational and cultural programs with local universities, such as the American Center at the National Sun Yat-sen University, and through our American Corner. We will host a youth camp in Pingtung later this month. This October, we will support two education fairs here to encourage local students to pursue education in the United States.
We have worked closely on environmental protection and sustainability programs. And of course, we cooperate to enhance the security of the worldwide maritime shipping system through the Container Security and Megaports initiatives.
At AIT Kaohsiung, we also provide critical consular services to about 10,000 U.S. citizens who reside in southern Taiwan. And now, with the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, our friends in southern Taiwan can simply apply for a travel authorization online without trekking all the way to Taipei. In the first 16 months of Taiwan’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, travel from Taiwan to the United States increased more than 25 percent.
This new facility will enable AIT’s activities to grow well into the future. We are off to a great start under the leadership of our new Branch Chief, Bob DeWitt, and his deputy, Jason Chue.
Finally I would like to thank all of you who provided steadfast support to our relocation project. I want to thank Mayor Chen and the Kaohsiung city government; Deputy Director-General Hsiao, Director-General Ting, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And I thank Chairman Tsou and the China Steel Corporation for your assistance and hospitality. I must also thank the folks at Horizon, who worked so hard to make this splendid new office a reality. Likewise, my colleagues from AIT, the State Department, and elsewhere who have worked to get us to this day are too numerous to mention. I am very grateful for their hard work and perseverance.
With this wonderful new facility, we look forward to building even closer friendship with the people of southern Taiwan. Thank you very much.