An official website of the United States government

Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at AmCham White Paper Luncheon
June 10, 2020

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Logo
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Logo

Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen
at AmCham White Paper Luncheon
(as prepared for delivery)


NDC Minister Kung, AmCham Chairman Chin, AmCham President Foreman, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, wu an!

It is my great pleasure to be here today to help celebrate the publication of the American Chamber of Commerce’s annual White Paper, which this year includes a new chapter on talent circulation.  AmCham’s White Paper represents the voice of American and international business operating in Taiwan.  We also would like to applaud the Taiwan authorities’ sincere dedication to engage with the international business community and work constructively with them to foster a legal and regulatory environment conducive to Taiwan’s success.  All of us share the same goal:  a prosperous and internationally connected Taiwan.

Today I would like to address a few topics I imagine are on everybody’s mind:

  1. What is the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations?
  2. How does the COVID-19 pandemic change things? And
  3. Why we believe promoting talent circulation is important for Taiwan’s future.

What is the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations?

Relations between the United States and Taiwan have never been closer, and I expect this trend will only continue into the future.  In fact, we have recently been describing our relationship as “Real friends, real progress.”

Taiwan is now our 10th largest trading partner.  To put things in perspective, we do roughly the same amount of trade with Taiwan as we do with India, a country of 1.3 billion people.  U.S. investment into Taiwan is increasing exponentially, in particular with respect to technology.  Virtually every major U.S. technology company has significantly increased its investment in Taiwan over the last few years.  And the reason why is obvious:  Taiwan respects the rule of law, protects intellectual property, and shares our democratic values.  It is also producing thousands of world-class engineers every year, creating a steady pipeline of some of the world’s best talent in all technology fields, from semiconductors to smart machinery to artificial intelligence.  In particular, more and more U.S. firms are setting up here in Taiwan AI research and development labs.  Taiwan is quickly becoming the AI back office of the world and is poised to become the center of global hardware-software integration efforts in an internet of things era.

Taiwan is also one of the most active investors in the United States, boasting the largest delegation for the last two years at the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, ensuring that economic ties between the United States and Taiwan will remain strong for decades to come.  Most notably, as you all know, TSMC recently announced a $12 billion investment to build an advanced semiconductor manufacturing facility in the United States.  We believe this move sends an unmistakable signal that the future of high-tech supply chains remains in the U.S.-Taiwan nexus.  China and the United States may be decoupling on technology, but the United States and Taiwan are drawing ever closer.

But this is not to say our trade relationship is without its challenges.  We look forward to Taiwan living up to its commitments on agricultural market access so we can consider formally deepening the trade relationship with new commitments.  I sincerely hope that Taiwan will be able to resolve this issue as soon as possible so that our trade relations can move to the next level.

How does the COVID-19 pandemic change things?

We can now turn to the question of how does the COVID-19 pandemic change things.  I anticipate three primary changes for Taiwan:

First, the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate supply chain restructuring out of China.  It has become abundantly clear to the whole world that there are dangers in being over-reliant upon a single supplier.  The COVID-19 pandemic and its knock-on effects will likely change the calculus of many companies regarding the wisdom of continuing to invest so heavily in China.

Second, it will accelerate the shift towards a digital economy.  As it becomes harder to physically manufacture and move products, digital alternatives naturally take center stage.  Since Taiwan builds much of the underlying technology for the digital world, as global demand for digital goods and services increases, Taiwan’s technology sector is likely to see an increase as well.

Third, I expect Taiwan’s exemplary response to the crisis will increase Taiwan’s soft power.  This is truly Taiwan’s moment.  As many have observed, because of its close proximity to China, Taiwan  was expected to suffer the most from COVID-19, but instead it has performed better than every other place in the world in managing the pandemic.  Taiwan’s success story has been applauded across the world, and many are looking to the Taiwan Model for lessons on how to manage the pandemic.  This will raise Taiwan’s profile globally, and its “Taiwan Can Help” campaign of donating much-needed medical supplies is earning enormous good will around the world.

Why do we believe promoting talent circulation is so important for Taiwan’s future?

Which brings me to our final question, why do we believe that promoting the circulation of talent between Taiwan and its democratic partners like the United States is an important part of Taiwan’s future?

Many of Taiwan’s most successful leaders in industry, government, academia and civil society first gained experience abroad and then returned to Taiwan to make a positive difference.  We believe that if Taiwan’s top talent is deeply connected with the free and open Indo-Pacific then its future will likewise remain centered in the democratic world.  We believe the best way to prevent the loss of talent is to create a viable alternative – namely easy circulation of talent among like-minded economies, in particular the United States.

For these reasons, last year the United States and Taiwan jointly launched the Talent Circulation Alliance, or TCA, a public-private partnership that facilitates the circulation of talent between Taiwan and the United States, with the goal of cultivating a deep pool of capable, internationally-integrated, and digitally-savvy professionals that can strengthen the people-to-people ties between the United States and Taiwan.  AmCham is a founding partner of the Talent Circulation Alliance.  Indeed, the idea for it was the brainchild of a now retired AmCham employee.  AmCham’s NextGen Leadership Program is designed to support the TCA goals.  The example AmCham sets of bringing international ideas and experience into Taiwan’s private sector also makes all of you a part of the Talent Circulation Alliance’s efforts.

Over the last nine months, the TCA – in partnership with AmCham Taipei – has collected input from industry leaders, academics, government officials, foreign missions, civil society, and the general public through conferences, roundtables, meetings, and on-line digital dialogues.  The new chapter on talent circulation in AmCham’s White Paper consolidates the input gained from these engagements into actionable policy steps.  The main conclusion the TCA reached is that Taiwan should transform itself into an “international talent hub.”  They said, “Taiwan has few natural resources, but it has an abundance of talented people.  If the people of Taiwan are equipped with the necessary skills and then connected to the world, Taiwan will naturally succeed and be able to chart its own future for decades to come.”  I encourage you all to read this new chapter and do your part to promote the international circulation and cultivation of talent.


In conclusion, we congratulate AmCham again for producing concrete policy recommendations for how the United States and Taiwan can “strive together and thrive together” to create a prosperous and internationally connected Taiwan.  And we applaud Taiwan for its sustained engagement with the international business community.  We at AIT look forward to working with all of you to transform the recommendations of the White Paper into reality.

Thank you.