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Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Rodney E. Slater, Plenary Session, USA-ROC Joint Business Conference

BG0013E | Date: 2000-06-21


On behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation, I am delighted to join our friends from both sides of the Pacific for this 24th joint annual business conference.

I am here today to affirm that the relationship between the United States and Taiwan is both strong and broad. It is a vital, substantive relationship that meets the needs of both our peoples, touching every facet of our lives from travel visas to cultural exchanges to the protection of intellectual property rights. It is a relationship that meets the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan and it is a relationship that assists U.S. exporters in selling their products in Taiwan.

Most important of all, it is a relationship that reflects our shared faith in the power of democracy.

My participation at today's session continues a long-standing Transportation Department tradition: The first U.S. cabinet secretary to ever address this distinguished forum was U.S. Secretary of Transportation Sam Skinner, who spoke to your 1991 meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. His successor-and my immediate predecessor-Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, addressed your 18th Annual Meeting in 1994, here in Taipei. I am therefore the third U.S. Secretary of Transportation in a row to address this distinguished audience.

There is a unifying thread that ties my involvement this year, with the participation of my predecessors in years past. And that thread is the connection all three of us have emphasized between promoting international trade and improving the transportation system that supports trade. Transportation is 'the tie that binds' peoples and communities; without transportation, there can be no trade.

In his remarks nine years ago in Salt Lake City, Secretary Skinner pointed out that "Both Taiwan and the United States recognize that transportation is the key to economic development." Speaking here in Taipei six years ago, Secretary Pena made the same point, saying, "The emergence of a truly global economy makes transportation an even more vital determinant of national and regional success."

Today I am here to explore how the business community and transportation leaders can work together to encourage the growth of that global economy, by improving the quality of the transportation choices and decisions we make-particularly over the next 25 years.

My participation in the Council's deliberations this year also reflects the continuing importance the United States places on its economic and commercial relationship with Taiwan, which is America's 8th largest export market and our 7th largest trading partner. The future prospects for Taiwan's economy are bright; exports and investments are increasing at double-digit rates and GDP grew 7.93 percent during the first quarter of this year-the fastest growth in eight years.

This growth was driven by demand for Taiwan's exports, particularly semiconductors and electronic components. Despite the fact that the island is home to only 22 million people, Taiwan is the world's third largest manufacturer of information technology products, and the world-class computer and information technology industries here are intertwined with our own. Because of its effects on transportation, I am extremely interested in the e-commerce wave hitting Asia, including the need for expanded transportation infrastructure. I plan to discuss e-commerce as well as other economic and transportation issues with business leaders during the course of my visit.

The early accession of the PRC and Taiwan to the World Trade Organization will stimulate and encourage participation in broader economic and commercial trends surging through Asia. With the successful conclusion of bilateral negotiations between China and the EU on May 19th, it is now clearer than ever that China will soon join the WTO. The United States continues to work hard to achieve approval of both accessions this year.

WTO membership for the PRC and Taiwan will bring one billion people on both sides of the Strait into closer relationship with the rest of the world, and promote increased global trade with the $7 trillion dollar Asian economy. Once Taiwan and the PRC are part of the WTO, both will have more opportunities for contact and greater interdependence within the useful discipline of a rules-based international trading organization. This WTO relationship should deter conflict, guiding energy into more productive channels.

We also anticipate that Taiwan's participation in WTO will accelerate important political and economic reforms affecting bilateral trade with the United States such as government procurement, telecommunications services, and the protection of intellectual property. More fundamentally, WTO accession will reinforce Taiwan's own efforts to dismantle protected monopolies and improve the competitive climate inside Taiwan, particularly the regulatory system. While Taiwan is already well on its way to achieving a functioning free-market economic system and good macro-economic policies, it is critical that the statutory and regulatory environment measure up to world standards.

Let me turn now to the important agenda of today's Conference, Taiwan's New Landscape-Business Opportunities in the 21st Century, and-in particular-the impact of economic growth on transportation. At the dawn of this new century and new millennium, transportation decision-makers on every continent-both those serving governments and those working in the private sector-face a new and unprecedented challenge, the challenge of globalization.

President Clinton has called globalization "The central reality of our time." And in his National Transportation Week message last month, he stressed the importance of wise and informed transportation choices to "Make our communities more livable, give our citizens greater choice and mobility, protect our environment and help create a truly global community."

Globalization is on the march. An enlarged, more integrated international community is coming into being-and local, regional and international leaders who help shape transportation decisions must cope with the unprecedented demands this enlarged community will place on national and international transport systems.

When it comes to improving the quality of transportation decision-making to support globalization we are clearly faced with a challenge. We must choose when and how to deploy new technologies to improve the safety, efficiency and productivity of our transportation systems-and how to pay for these innovations. We face choices about protecting the environment of our native lands and the world. We face the challenge of encouraging alternative forms of transportation-fuel-efficient vehicles, alternative fuels, bicycling, walking.

At the top of the list of challenges we face, is the need to effectively integrate new technology and information systems with the transportation system. It may be true that e-commerce operates "by the click of a button." However, e-commerce still requires planes, trains, and trucks to move goods to their destinations after they are ordered on the Internet.

The future of transportation then, is clearly about choices. To improve the quality of transportation decision-making, I am meeting with transportation experts and stakeholders in the United States and around the world to urge that we work together to forge a new transportation policy architecture consistent with the needs of a new century and a new millennium.

By "policy architecture" I am referring to the interlocking web of policies and practices that shape and inform transportation decisions by stakeholders at all levels: governments, trade associations, organized labor and individual companies as well as consumers and interest groups.

This new policy architecture I seek to encourage is one that, first and foremost, increases global cooperation to enhance safety-which remains President Clinton's top transportation priority and the "North Star" guiding all that we do at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Tomorrow's transportation system should also be sustainable, in keeping with our need to preserve and protect the global environment for future generations.

To safety and sustainability, I would also add that we need transport systems that are: International in reach, linking markets and destinations around the world; Intermodal in form, achieving a balance among various modes of transportation; Intelligent in character, harnessing the awesome power of technology in ways that benefit people; and Inclusive in service-leaving no one behind. And to support all of these goals, we must encourage a climate of innovation.

At the U.S. Department of Transportation we have been conducting what we are calling "2025 Visioning Sessions" with stakeholder groups across America to clarify a vision of transportation for the next 25 years. Let me emphasize that we are not trying to predict the future. What we intend to do is create an alternative future for transportation that might not otherwise exist. We plan to publish the results of our efforts as part of a 2025 Trends and Choices Report later this summer.

We will also use what we learn in our visioning sessions to help plan for the International Transportation Symposium the U.S. Department of Transportation will host this fall in Washington, D.C., from October 9 through 12. This symposium builds on the achievements of last year's Aviation in the 21st Century-Beyond Open Skies Ministerial that drew representatives from 90 countries to Chicago, extending that discussion beyond just aviation to all modes of transport.

We will also use the Washington symposium to exchange information about "best practices" with respect to such issues as changing consumer expectations, seamless modal integration, workforce capacity, e-commerce and its impact on transportation, safety and security standards, and innovative financing of multimodal transportation systems.

On the ground, on the rails, in the air and on the water, globalization is changing the nature of transportation everywhere. During the 21st century we face crucial choices with far-reaching consequences for future economic growth and the quality of life in the communities where we live and across the globe.

As I often say, "Transportation is about more than concrete, asphalt and steel." It is about people and the quality of people's lives. It promotes economic development; it expands the possibilities for trade; it opens doors and markets. As President Clinton put it, "The 20th century was indeed, a golden age for transportation; the 21st century can be an even brighter one."