OT-1014E | (As Prepared for Delivery)
Charles, Richard — Thank you for inviting me to help kick off this impressive event. My remarks today will focus on the current state of U.S.-Taiwan relations and our views about recent cross-Strait developments.
For more than thirty years, the United States’ “one China” policy based on the three U.S.-China Joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act has guided our relations with Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. You all know our policy. We do not support Taiwan independence. We are opposed to unilateral attempts by either side to change the status quo. We insist that cross-Strait differences be resolved peacefully and according to the wishes of the people on both sides of the Strait. We welcome active efforts on both sides to engage in a dialogue that reduces tensions and increases contacts of all kinds across the Strait and hope such dialogue continues to expand.
Our consistent policy over these many years has helped ensure Taiwan’s prosperity and advance its democratic development while at the same time it has allowed us to nurture constructive relations with the PRC. We believe that our approach has helped create an environment conducive to promoting people-to-people exchanges, expanding cross-Strait trade and investment, and enhancing prospects for the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences.
Recent Cross-Strait Developments
We have witnessed remarkable progress in cross-Strait relations in the two years since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office. Direct travel, shipping and postal service are now routine, with more than 270 direct flights per week. More than one million mainland tourists are expected to visit Taiwan this year. Financial and investment ties continue to deepen and law enforcement cooperation is increasing. On the international front we’ve seen a limited, but important expansion in Taiwan’s ability to participate in the international community through the decision by the World Health Organization to invite Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly as an observer in 2009 and again this year. Finally, Taiwan and the PRC have established a “diplomatic truce,” where for the time being each side has ceased competing for the diplomatic recognition of countries that recognize the other. As positive as these developments are, concerns remain, especially about the continued PRC military build-up across the Strait.
The U.S. Role
The United States has long been guided by the view that although we are not a direct participant in cross-Strait issues, we have a strong and abiding interest in helping to foster a peaceful and non-coerced resolution of problems.
Ultimately, the future stability in the Strait will depend on open dialogue between Taiwan and the PRC, free of coercion and consistent with Taiwan’s democracy. In order to engage productively with the mainland at a pace and scope that is politically supportable by its people, Taiwan needs to be confident in its role in the international community, and that its future will be determined in accordance with the wishes of its people. The United States has a constructive role to play in each of these areas.
Taiwan’s role in the international community
The United States is a strong, consistent supporter of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations. We frequently make our views on this topic clear to all members of the international community, including the PRC. Partly because of U.S. efforts, Taiwan is a member and full participant in key bodies such as the World Trade Organization, the Asian Development Bank and APEC. We believe that Taiwan should also be able to participate in organizations where it cannot be a member, such as the World Health Organization and other important international bodies whose activities have a direct impact on the people of Taiwan. We were gratified that after more than a decade of efforts, Taiwan was able to attend last year’s World Health Assembly as an observer, and has been invited to attend again this year. We hope Taiwan will continue to be invited in the future.
Taiwan has demonstrated, again and again, that it is an important and valued member of the international community. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Taiwan stepped up, sending teams into Haiti to help with rescue efforts and dispatching considerable amounts of aid. We were pleased to help facilitate Taiwan’s efforts, including by linking up Taiwan rescue teams in Haiti with American and other international teams.
Taiwan must be confident that its future will not be coerced in order to engage fully with the mainland. This underlies our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to provide Taiwan with defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.
The excellent working relationships we have developed with Taiwan were further cemented in August 2009 when the U.S. was able to respond quickly to Taiwan’s requests for assistance following Typhoon Morakot. Through USAID, we released emergency assistance funds to the Taiwan Red Cross to help deal with the crisis. We were the very first nation to provide such help. Less than 24 hours after we received Taiwan’s request, we dispatched heavy lift helicopters to Taiwan to engage in relief work in remote parts of southern Taiwan and delivered several loads of needed relief materials. These actions demonstrated our willingness to lend a hand when the people of Taiwan needed our help following this natural disaster.
Finally, closer economic relations are in the interest of both the United States and Taiwan. President Ma has made it clear that Taiwan desires to strengthen its economic ties with the United States and other trade partners at the same time as it pursues economic agreements with the mainland, such as the proposed cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. The United States has the same goal. We would like to reinvigorate the U.S.-Taiwan economic agenda, reduce trade barriers and increase U.S.-Taiwan trade and investment ties.
Taiwan is one of our most important trade and investment partners. The United States is the largest foreign investor in Taiwan with cumulative direct investments of over $21 billion. Taiwan is our 10th largest trading partner, larger than Italy, India or Brazil, with trade amounting to over $46 billion last year. We hope bilateral trade can grow substantially in 2010 as both the United States and Taiwan recover from last year’s economic downturn.
The United States and Taiwan signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 1994. Through the TIFA we have been able to resolve many difficult trade issues and deepen our economic cooperation. We have had many successes, including our work together in the area of enforcement of intellectual property rights, where Taiwan has made great strides.
In any robust trade relationship there will be some friction, and unfortunately, in recent months we have faced some significant challenges over Taiwan restrictions on the import of American beef products. The Administration remains committed to making progress on this and other important trade issues, revitalizing our TIFA process, and exploring new initiatives to expand our bilateral economic relationship.
How the evolving relationship between Taiwan and the PRC develops depends on the leadership and people on both sides of the Strait. Both sides deserve credit for the steps taken in the past two years to find common ground. The scope of future economic and political interaction will be determined in conjunction with Taiwan’s well-established, thriving democratic processes. We are encouraged by progress to date, and confident that our long-standing approach to cross-Strait issues will enhance the prospects for further steps to peacefully manage the complicated and exceedingly important cross-Strait relationship.
Thank you very much.