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Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at Hsieh Nien Fan
April 22, 2021


Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at Hsieh Nien Fan

(As Prepared for Delivery)


President Tsai, AmCham Chairman Chin, distinguished guests and friends, good evening.

It is my pleasure to be with you tonight representing AIT and the American people to share a few thoughts with you.

I would like to first take a moment to thank Leo Seewald for his excellent stewardship of AmCham Taiwan as interim AmCham president and welcome Andrew Wylegala as the new AmCham president.  AIT is eager to continue our close collaboration with AmCham Taiwan and its leadership.

Allow me at this time to offer condolences to the family and friends who lost loved ones in the train accident of April 2.  Among the 49 passengers and crew who lost their lives were two American citizens who were here in Taiwan teaching English with the Fulbright program – young people who were working to bring the United States and Taiwan closer together through educational exchange.

This past year has had more than its share of tragedy, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc throughout the globe.  But 2021 has also brought some hope and we can see signs of a return to normalcy on the horizon.  I know that I speak for all of us in the room in expressing admiration and gratitude to Taiwan for its extraordinary handling of the pandemic that included Taiwan making generous donations of facemasks, medical supplies, and technical expertise to the United States and other friends around the world.

AIT has been pleased to partner with Taiwan over the past year to share Taiwan’s impressive experience in handling the pandemic, showing that Taiwan Can Help – and Taiwan IS Helping, through what has been dubbed the “Taiwan Model.”  The Taiwan Model for containing COVID-19 has earned Taiwan well-deserved international acclaim for its combination of democratic principles, solidarity, generosity, and of course, efficacy.  Even more impressive, Taiwan has done this while boasting economic growth of nearly 3 percent last year, higher than any of the other Asian tigers, and projected growth of 5 percent for this year.

The Taiwan Model is not just about COVID.  It’s about the way that Taiwan takes good ideas and makes them even better.

Looking back over the past few decades since the start of the Taiwan Economic Miracle, it is clear that Taiwan policymakers and business leaders have developed a secret sauce for problem solving.  I believe that Taiwan has often excelled not so much by creating new inventions – which it certainly has — but more significantly by looking at all the available solutions and creating a process that is efficient and practical with constant iteration and improvement.

Allow me to provide a few examples of how Taiwan’s problem-solving acumen has led to economic success.

Many of you may know that bicycling has enjoyed a huge renaissance in the United States and elsewhere during the pandemic, leading to massive demand for new bicycles. I am an avid biker myself, and if you follow AIT’s Facebook, you probably know that I have biked all over this beautiful island.  Taiwan did not invent the bicycle, but it certainly has done a marvelous job of supplying the world with first-rate bikes, first of steel and then of aluminum and carbon fiber. It was a real highlight for me to visit the headquarters of Giant Bicycles at the end of last year.  Giant not only makes bikes under its own brand, but it also helped create the OEM manufacturer model to make bikes for others, such as the U.S. company Trek Bicycles.  Through constant innovation and development, Giant has grown from a small operation in Taichung in 1972 to become what is now the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer.

And Giant has applied its expertise to the YouBike bike share system here in Taipei.  We have bike share systems in the United States, of course, including one of the earliest established in Portland, Oregon where I once lived as a dental student.  But in my view, YouBike is the best.  I ride YouBikes all over Taipei, often stopping for a refreshment at 7-11, another import from the United States that Taiwan has turned into something exceptional by expanding them into one-stop shops for all your needs.  I only wish 7-11s in the United States could be so useful.

Of course, it is semiconductors where Taiwan’s ingenuity and skill are most impressive.  Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is globally recognized for good reason.  TSMC has become the world’s leading semiconductor fab not because of one single factor, but because it has created one of the best processes in the world, combining technology and know-how in a manner that has turned it into one of the most indispensable companies on the planet.

But the significance of TSMC and Taiwan’s other leading semiconductor companies is about more than just innovation and profitability. The COVID pandemic has taught economies around the world a few hard lessons, including the need to have trusted trade partners and secure supply chains.

President Biden is keenly aware of this dynamic.  Semiconductors are a major focus of a strategic supply chain review that he launched early in his presidency, along with medical supplies, batteries, and critical minerals.  Taiwan is a key partner in that process.  Clearly, TSMC’s 12-billion-dollar investment in Arizona will play a significant role in bipartisan efforts to strengthen and rebuild U.S. supply chains on critical items like semiconductors.

But the need to forge stronger, more secure supply chains with economies that share our economic values – free markets, private sector-led growth, respect for intellectual property rights – applies to all supply chains, not just high-tech ones.  AIT has already been working with Taiwan counterparts to hold a series of events large and small, public and private, bilateral and regional, to elevate and make progress on the supply chain issue.

Over the past year-and-a-half, AIT has been working with Taiwan to promote supply chain resiliency.  In 2020 AIT and TAITRA issued a joint statement on strengthening our consultations and cooperation on supply chain restructuring and resiliency, especially in the ICT and medical sectors.  In November, during the U.S. 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum, Taiwan hosted a session on the Taiwan Model on COVID-19, which focused on Public Private Partnerships in the Medical Industry.

And just last week, we held a workshop as part of the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, or GCTF, in which Taiwan shared its success in diversifying its supply chains and supporting small and medium enterprises, with participants joining from more than 26 countries.

We have also used the GCTF to share Taiwan’s expertise in pandemic response, cutting-edge technology, and traditional manufacturing, all valuable areas for economic partners to draw from.  We are pleased that the GCTF expanded last year to include Japan as a full partner with many other countries contributing to workshops that have provided training to hundreds of government officials all over the world.

I raise the examples of supply chains, semiconductors, bicycles, and convenience stores as emblematic of the many ways that Taiwan has taken a good thing and made it better by focusing on the details and the process while not compromising on basic values.  That to me is the Taiwan Model that we are proud to help share with the world through the GCTF and other platforms.

AIT’s economic and commercial efforts also aim at strengthening our bilateral ties.  Our two economies are linked in a complementary, virtuous cycle.  I believe strongly that the United States and Taiwan working together can come up with innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges we face, and U.S.-Taiwan ties have never been stronger.  We cooperate on so many areas of governance, security, prosperity, and culture that it is sometimes hard to keep track.  And the friendship that makes those areas of cooperation possible is built upon the vision and commitments laid out in the Taiwan Relations Act.  Secretary of State Blinken has recently reaffirmed our commitment to Taiwan in no uncertain terms, a message reiterated by a delegation led by former Senator Chris Dodd that President Biden personally dispatched to Taiwan last week, showing that our commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid.” It is worth noting that this special delegation’s visit came just days after the 42nd anniversary of the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act, for which Senator Dodd, then a member of the House of Representatives, served as key floor manager to coordinate votes for this historic legislation.

But I also believe that there is more we can do together to build upon the solid foundation of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, especially on the economic front.  That is why last year we launched the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue (or EPPD) with Taiwan.  This dialogue focuses on sharing experiences and priorities to address the challenges of today and tomorrow, from infrastructure and supply chains to 5G and artificial intelligence.  This dialogue allows us to pursue our shared interests on the basis of our shared values, including by striving to be a force for good in the world.

Our new U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has spoken quite eloquently about her desire to use international trade as a force for good.  I am confident that Taiwan can be a strategic partner for us on trade policy.  And for that reason, I look forward to the United States and Taiwan further deepening our trade relationship under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement or TIFA.

I know that everyone here shares my appreciation for the critical role the U.S.-Taiwan partnership plays in our shared prosperity. I know this because you represent key engines of growth and development in this partnership. You bring U.S. innovation and know-how to the Taiwan market. You encourage Taiwan investment in U.S. growth industries. You ensure that the United States is a beneficiary of Taiwan’s cutting-edge technology and commitment to deploying it to uphold our shared values, not undermine them.  And as this economic and commercial relationship continues to expand and develop, you, the members of AmCham Taiwan will become even more critical.

Thank you for your friendship and partnership; for your diligence and dedication; for your creativity and ingenuity.   With shared goals and determination, I have no doubt that AIT and AmCham have a bright future working together to ensure that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship continues to exemplify Real Friends, Real Progress.

Thank you.