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Remarks by AIT Chairman James Moriarty at the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce
August 10, 2021


 Remarks by AIT Chairman James Moriarty
at the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce
San Francisco Bay Area
July 31, 2021

“Taiwan and the United States, a look ahead”

John (Hsieh), thanks for the kind introduction. I was last here in 2019, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act with you.  In many ways the time since has been difficult; many of us here today probably feel we spent the last year or so in hibernation as the world tackled the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, in the interim, the people-to-people relationship between Taiwan and the United States was doing anything but hibernating!

This year, I decided to title my speech “Taiwan and the United States, a look ahead” with intention of signaling something different to you.  For a long time, it was easy to dust off prior speeches, since there was often not much new information to share on our relationship… but I don’t feel that way this year.  In order to look at the future, I will start by looking at the recent past.  I want to review for you what has remained the same in the US-Taiwan relationship, what has changed, and where we are right now.

What remains the same? I know many on Taiwan were pleased with the progress in our relationship under the previous administration, and perhaps worried about the impact a change in U.S. administration might have on the relationship.  In his confirmation hearing, now Secretary Blinken put those fears to rest, saying: “we will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Asia-Pacific region — and that includes deepening our ties with Taiwan… Taiwan is a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner — its future matters to the United States for all of these reasons.  America’s commitment to Taiwan will remain rock-solid.”  Rock-solid.  That is clear.  And it is a commitment that the Biden administration has continued to reiterate – and to demonstrate – ever since.

For example, former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd and former Deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and James Steinberg headed to Taiwan earlier this year at President Joe Biden’s request, in what a White House official called a “personal signal” of the president’s commitment.

While much is happening in U.S. relations with Taiwan, the U.S. “one-China policy” remains the same: The United States remains committed to the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences as long as that resolution is without coercion and consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan.  We will continue to meet our commitments to Taiwan and help Taiwan maintain a sufficient self-defense capability commensurate with the threat Taiwan faces. Doing so increases stability both across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.

For over 40 years, every U.S. administration has noted that U.S. policy toward Taiwan is grounded in the Taiwan Relations Act and the three Joint Communiques.  Beginning in 2020, the United States has also publicly stressed the importance of the Six Assurances provided to Taiwan at the time of the Third Communique between the US. and the PRC.  The recent declassification of two documents from that time made clear for all the U.S. understanding of our commitment to Taiwan’s security.  As President Reagan put it, “… it is essential that the quality and quantity of the arms provided Taiwan be conditioned entirely on the threat posed by the PRC.  Both in quantitative and qualitative terms, Taiwan’s defense capability relative to that of the PRC will be maintained.”  Thus, the foundations of our relationship with Taiwan remain the same.  

What has changed in recent years, however, is the increasing belligerence toward Taiwan coming from Beijing.  The current leadership in Beijing insists that Taiwan move toward unification with the PRC under a “one country-two systems” formula, a formula rejected by almost all the people on Taiwan.  The reason for that rejection? Hong Kong.  The actions the PRC has taken in implementing that formula in Hong Kong have made it abundantly clear that unification on those terms would lead to the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy.  Accordingly, Beijing has come to rely almost solely on coercive tactics – such as disinformation, malicious cyber actions, squeezing Taiwan’s international space, and outright military intimidation – to try to push a reluctant Taiwan toward unification.

As the Taiwan Relations Act noted over forty years ago, any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes would be a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.

Kurt Campbell – the White House coordinator for the Indo-Pacific – noted in July: unilateral change of Taiwan’s status by Beijing would be catastrophic.  The U.S. firmly believes that peace in the Indo-Pacific region is in everyone’s interest.  But in order to protect that peace, we are willing to call out bad behavior and stand with the people on Taiwan, recognizing Taiwan’s role in our shared prosperity.

The Present and Future: During these tense and complicated times, the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan grows stronger and stronger.  If you had asked me five years ago what I thought U.S. ties with Taiwan would look like now, I doubt I would have anticipated the strength and depth of our cooperation in a host of areas.  In five more years, our solid partnership will continue to build on our shared values and interests including in the areas of economic and trade ties, promotion of Taiwan’s international space, bolstering Taiwan’s self-defense, and people-to-people ties.

Economy and trade

Despite having a population of only 23 million, Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States.  That said, there is room for even more growth.  The American Institute in Taiwan and its counterpart, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the United States, work to address trade issues through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement – or TIFA.  If we can successfully use mechanisms like TIFA to resolve trade irritants between our two economies, we will foster an even stronger and closer trade relationship.

Last month, AIT and TECRO held their first TIFA Joint Council meeting in five years.  At that meeting, U.S. officials emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Taiwan trade and investment relationship and expressed their desire for stronger and more consistent engagement going forward.  We discussed agriculture, made progress on long-standing U.S. concerns regarding medical devices, and agreed to new areas for cooperation, including the formation of a Labor Working Group that will support President Biden’s priority of a worker-centered trade policy.  We look forward to launching this working group and reinvigorating other existing working groups under the TIFA in the coming months.

Late last year, AIT and TECRO launched an Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, led on the U.S. side by then-Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach.  Under Secretary Krach had in fact just returned from Taiwan, where he represented the people of the United States at the funeral of Taiwan’s first democratically elected president, Lee Tung-hui.  That was, I should add, the highest-level visit by a State Department official since 1979.  Under the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, the United States and Taiwan discussed such areas of cooperation as global health security, science and technology, 5G and telecommunications security, supply chains, women’s economic empowerment, infrastructure cooperation, and investment screening.

Taiwan plays a critical role in some of the most sophisticated global supply chains, and specifically as a designer and manufacturer of the most advanced semiconductors.  As we enter into the era of the Internet of Things, Taiwan’s prominence in supply chains will only grow, spanning multiple industries such as the automotive industry, telecommunications, and even household appliances.

Under Secretary Krach’s visit to Taiwan followed an August 2020 visit by then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.  Secretary Azar, the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit Taiwan since EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in 2014, witnessed the signing of a new AIT-TECRO Memorandum of Understanding on health cooperation.  This Memorandum of Understanding builds on decades of close cooperation between the United States and Taiwan in the field of public health.  The MOU will help strengthen cooperation in global health security, investigation and control of infectious disease, research, prevention and treatment of chronic disease, and the development of drugs and vaccines.

Also, late last year, AIT and TECRO signed an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation that will promote collaborative research and advance joint understanding on a broad range of science and technology topics.  This agreement reaffirms the close partnership between the United States and Taiwan and elevates the science and technology cooperation between our societies.  Already, several U.S. agencies have reached out to AIT to pursue new joint research projects under the agreement, and we anticipate this is just the tip of the iceberg.

International space & health cooperation

The U.S. has shifted our mantra from “let’s help Taiwan” to “Taiwan can help.” Finding venues and platforms to highlight and amplify Taiwan’s contributions to the international community, and world health, in particular, is a key priority.

We were thrilled to launch earlier this year a significant expansion of the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, or GCTF.  GCTF is a platform that brings Taiwanese expertise to the world through workshops focused on topics of contemporary concern, such as combatting COVID-19 or building media literacy to counter disinformation.  We have implemented a decentralized structure for planning and implementing GCTF events that not only allows us to increase the number of workshops we conduct, but also expand the program’s geographical reach.  The new model also allows us to tailor GCTF events to resonate with specific regional audiences.

We have also formalized the Pacific Island Dialogue into an annual discussion hosted by AIT and TECRO to improve coordination of joint efforts in support of Taiwan’s diplomatic partners in the Western Pacific.  We expect to announce some exciting new collaborations at this year’s Dialogue, so stay tuned.

I must touch on the PRC’s increasingly provocative attempts to isolate Taiwan.  The PRC continues to block Taiwan’s participation in international organizations such as the World Health Organization; this at a time when Taiwan’s initial success in containing the pandemic and its eagerness to share its knowledge and utilize its capacities for the good of humankind underscored how much Taiwan has to offer the global community.  And when Taiwan experienced its own COVID-19 outbreak, the PRC used that opportunity to squeeze Taiwan’s diplomatic partners while interfering with an effective response on island.  I am proud that the U.S. was able to contribute 2.5 million vaccines to help Taiwan combat its first surge of COVID-19.

We are seeing a groundswell of support for Taiwan among a growing and increasingly diverse group of countries.  Parliaments across Europe are passing resolutions in support of Taiwan, reflecting growing public sentiment in favor of Taiwan’s participation on the global stage.  Lithuania has announced plans to open a representative office in Taipei.  And Taiwan’s diplomatic partners have stuck by Taiwan, even in the face of PRC attempts to use vaccines to induce them to change recognition.

Self -defense and security

The momentum generated by these increasing calls for Taiwan’s inclusion are likewise apparent in the security environment.  Several recent “firsts” have followed the new Administration’s outreach to allies in the region and more broadly.  Joint statements with close U.S. allies like South Korea included explicit mentions of cross-Strait security for the first time, as did the most recent G7 and NATO communiqués.

As allies and partners in the region and around the globe increasingly push back on China’s aggressive actions, it is important that Taiwan remain committed to the changes that only it can make for itself.  Taiwan must build as strong a deterrent as possible, as quickly as possible. In that sense, U.S. security relations with Taiwan are about much more than arms sales.  Taiwan’s key defense and military leaders need to overhaul Taiwan’s security concept by embracing modern, resilient, and cost-effective approaches, as well as innovative ways to employ existing capabilities. We are concerned that that is not happening quickly enough.

Taiwan needs defense in depth.  Taiwan needs truly asymmetric capabilities and strong reserve forces.  But as arms sales have become regularized and increasing in scope and dollar amounts, Taiwan’s focus and direction seem to be shifting back to conventional, large-scale platforms.

Truth be told, Taiwan’s 2021 Quadrennial Defense Review seemingly abandoned the previous, well-received Overall Defense Concept.  The QDR instead championed long-range strike, local air superiority, and controlling sea-lanes of communication – all concepts seemingly focused on a traditional, conventional battle rather than an asymmetric defense for a struggle Taiwan cannot afford to lose.  Returning to those systems which are mobile, survivable, and lethal – or as former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey put it, “large numbers of small things” – is a real and urgent course correction.

Building on our shared values and people-to-people ties

Security has been a key part of our relationship since the TRA, and so to, has people-to-people engagement based on our shared interests and values.  Here, too, there has been notable progress.  This year, the administration put out new contact guidance to encourage engagement with representatives from Taiwan.  The State Department regularly holds meetings with Taiwan representatives at all levels, as do other agencies of the executive branch.  In addition, U.S. embassies overseas are urged to engage with Taiwan representatives in those countries.  We have a robust agenda to discuss and now, many ways to do so.

In December of 2020, AIT and TECRO signed an agreement to foster International Education Cooperation.  We have always had large exchange programs, and both sides agreed to extend State Department exchange programs, support Taiwan’s 2030 bilingual education initiative, and facilitate Chinese language programs with funding support from Taiwan.  This past year has been tough for students to travel back and forth, but when travel is again allowed the programs will be larger than ever.

The U.S.-Taiwan Consultations on Democratic Governance in the Indo-Pacific Region, convened under the auspices of AIT and TECRO, continue to be an important venue for U.S.-Taiwan collaboration on issues of human rights, anticorruption, and democratic governance.  Then-Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Robert Destro hosted the most recent round of talks last September while in Taiwan to attend the memorial ceremony for former President Lee Teng-hui.  Among the important outcomes of this discussion was the opening of the regional offices of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute in Taipei.  As NDI’s Manpreet Singh Anand put it, “Taiwan’s democracy is a model for the Asia-Pacific region and the world.”  I can think of no more fitting tribute to President Lee than to continue to build on this important collaboration in the years to come.


So, you can see that since the last time I was with you, there has been a tremendous amount of activity between people in the United States and Taiwan, and we have momentum to carry us forward.

As State Department Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman has noted, now is an important time to “reaffirm the U.S. commitment to working with allies and partners to promote peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and to uphold the international rules-based order.”

That energy will give our new AIT Director in Taiwan, Sandra Oudkirk, a great platform to keep building on.

This past year has been difficult for both the United States and Taiwan.  A global pandemic, increasing belligerence from the PRC, economic challenges.  But I am confident that our shared democratic values and commitment to a rules-based international order will continue to carry the U.S.-Taiwan relationship to ever greater heights.