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Remarks by David J. Keegan Acting Director, American Institute in Taiwan to the 2006 Hsieh Nien Fan of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei

OT0602E | Date: 2006-02-23

It is really a pleasure to be here this evening with all of you.  I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the members of the Chamber and their distinguished guests on such a festive occasion. Thanks particularly to Richard Vuylsteke and his staff for the great job they do.  Please allow me to wish everyone here happiness, health and prosperity in the Year of the Dog.

One of the traditions in introducing a speech is to honor all of the dignitaries that are assembled.  If I were to attempt to do that tonight, we would be here past midnight.  So, I am going to take this opportunity simply to thank you, President Chen, on behalf of all Americans in Taiwan, for your sixth appearance at the Hsieh Nien Fan of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.  We recognize and appreciate it as a gesture of support and friendship.

At the start of the New Year, it is both appropriate, and very enjoyable, to spend some time with the AmCham.  You have a particularly important role to play in the bilateral relationship between the people of the United States and Taiwan.  The people in this room, and the companies you represent, have a large stake in ensuring the continued vibrancy of Taiwan's economy and the peaceful development of cross-Strait economic relations.  American policy on cross-Strait issues is firm and unchanging.  Our strong desire is that Taiwan's policy not depart from that strong foundation.  It has served us and the Taiwan people very well over the past several decades.  And just as clearly we want to see Beijing enter into direct dialogue with the elected representatives of Taiwan.  We are pleased that tensions in the Strait have diminished from the peaks that we have seen in the past.  We want that situation to continue so that businessmen and women, including our American firms in Taiwan, can get on with their livelihoods and create a more stable and prosperous future while they do so.

The friendship between America and Taiwan has remained deep over many years, and the American Institute in Taiwan has been honored to represent the American people and not only to provide essential services, but also to help foster cooperation and exchange between our people on so many levels.  In Taiwan, we- and the media- so often focus on the narrow scope of politics, but the truth is that the U.S. has strong historical and cultural ties with Taiwan, these are the personal ties that bind.  They are also ties of shared values and commitments.

A Broad U.S.-Taiwan Relationship

Perhaps the greatest example this year of cultural exchange is that a Director from Taiwan is favored to win the Oscar for "Best Director" for his acclaimed portrayal of the very "American" tableau of Wyoming.

For residents of Taiwan, the United States continues to be a popular destination for tourism, education, and business.  Despite rumors about the difficulty of entering the United States, during 2005 we processed nearly 200,000 nonimmigrant visas for Taiwan passport holders. Almost everyone gets a visa. Some 98% of applicants in 2005 got one.  We have worked hard to make the visa application process as convenient as possible - especially through information and services available on the AIT website.

Educational exchange continues to be an important way in which we experience each other's cultures and languages.  In the 2004-2005 school year, Taiwan ranked number six in the world in the number of students studying in the U.S., with nearly 26,000 students enrolled in U.S. schools.  Moreover, our commitment to U.S.-Taiwan educational exchange was clearly demonstrated this year when the U.S. increased our commitment to the Taiwan Fulbright program by $200,000 USD per year.  This will translate directly into more grants for more students.  In the United States, study of the Chinese language has become increasingly popular as it is introduced into more and more school systems throughout the country.  Many of those Chinese teachers come from Taiwan.

Our artists, musicians, dancers and filmmakers routinely share their work and expertise.  We just hosted a State Department "Hip Hop Ambassador" on a tour of Taiwan and she said that her interaction with local dancers and singers was an exciting window into each other's cultural values.  Indigenous peoples of both our societies have found common ground, and I understand that a number of exchanges- both artistic and professional- are underway between those communities.

As the world faces the possibility of an avian flu pandemic, we are building on our legacy of standing together to combat SARS three years ago. We look forward to continuing close cooperation with the Taiwan CDC and health authorities in the fight against communicable diseases.  This is a two-way street as Taiwan's current high level of preparedness also holds valuable lessons for the international community.

Authorities in Taiwan and the United States have engaged this year in unprecedented law enforcement cooperation in counterfeiting investigations as well as drug detection and enforcement training.  Our joint endeavor in Kaohsiung to screen cargo destined for the United States for weapons of mass destruction is an excellent example of counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation.  These initiatives make the world a better and safer place for everyone.

But for the people in this room, the vast economic relationship between the United States and Taiwan remains one of the most important threads in the fabric of our friendship.  It is something that you work on everyday. Our economic ties are stronger than ever. We can and must continue to work to make them stronger still.

Economic Relations

It makes sense, then, that Taiwan, despite its small size, is one of America's top ten trading partners. America is Taiwan's third largest market and is undoubtedly even more crucial to Taiwan's economy when one considers how much of this island's surging exports to China are driven by American demand for products made in Taiwan-related factories in the Mainland.  Through investment, U.S. companies continue to create well-paid, skilled jobs not only in Taipei, but also in Tainan, Taichung, Hsinchu, and throughout the island.  We are proud of the contribution American firms make to Taiwan and its people.

Taiwan has made notable progress this year in addressing some key trade concerns, such as adequate protection for intellectual property and certain market access issues in the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors.  These advances make possible frank discussion of problems in forums such as the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA, talks.

There is still room for improvement. American firms doing business here have a number of concerns about the trade and investment environment.  These concerns are compiled with painstaking documentation, clear analysis, and positive recommendations in the AmCham's Taiwan White Paper.  It is one of the best roadmaps I know of for Taiwan to retain its place as a favored destination of foreign investors.  President Chen has said that he makes a point of reading the White Paper each year.  I hope that all Taiwan officials will follow his example.

Looking Ahead

Even with all its success, Taiwan cannot become complacent.  Prosperity cannot be taken for granted.  Today's world is all about change, adaptation and innovation.  The pace of change is accelerating, with important implications and opportunities for Taiwan and for all of us.  There are a number of challenges in the year ahead:

One area in which the pace of change presents a major challenge for Taiwan is in the area of IPR.  Taiwan has made great strides in enforcement and legal protections for Intellectual Property.  But counterfeiters are always finding new ways to copy and distribute products.  Fake CDs and DVDs have been joined by counterfeit pharmaceuticals, fake branded goods and the use of the Internet to illegally distribute goods.  We look forward to working with Taiwan to continue our efforts to combat intellectual property piracy in all forms.

Taiwan's broadcast and telecommunications industry faces a pivotal year as the newly-appointed National Communications Commission takes up its task of being an independent media regulatory agency.  If Taiwan wishes to retain its edge in telecommunications technology, the NCC's independence and vision on topics such as media ownership and the future convergence of the broadcast and telecom industries will be crucial.

There is a lot of hard work ahead to ensure a successful outcome for the Doha Round of the WTO by the end of next year.  This is an opportunity for Taiwan to exert substantial, positive influence on the global stage.  With an economy that depends upon an open global trading system, Taiwan not only has a significant stake in improving that system, but is also in a position to help lead the Doha Round to a successful conclusion by standing for a more open global trading environment.  This will require politically difficult decisions, especially with regard to market access in the agricultural sector.  But the overall benefit to global trade and to Taiwan's own economy is clear.  In order for Taiwan to achieve its own broader trade and economic goals in the Doha Round, particularly for manufactured goods and for services, it will need to do its part to ensure there is success in agriculture. We need to redouble efforts across the board, but agriculture is the linchpin for the success of the Round.

Finally, one of the greatest challenges for the authorities in Taiwan - and in the U.S. for that matter - will be to manage the challenges and opportunities of globalization.  Integration of economies around the world is a fact of life.   We believe that Taiwan's economic vitality and attractiveness as a place to do business is closely linked to Taiwan-based businesses' ability to capitalize on opportunities in the mainland.  The just-concluded Lunar New Year charter flights remind us that progress is possible when both sides are prepared to work together.  We are encouraged by progress toward weekend and cargo charter flights through formal contacts between industry associations.  We understand that talks on tourism hold promise for further expansion of contacts across the Strait.  Our belief is that deepening of trade, postal, and communication links will increase business opportunities and enhance understanding.  I know that there are American businesses that would take advantage of opportunities offered by such expanded links and we will therefore continue to support such initiatives.

After a speech of this length, all of our minds can only be on one thing - dinner.  I am delighted that this year, rather than talking about U.S. beef, we can actually enjoy its fine flavor here in Taipei.  I want to emphasize that Taiwan's Department of Health and other officials made their decision to resume U.S. beef imports by strictly adhering to accepted science-based principles and international standards.  As a result of this process, Taiwan's consumers can be confident that U.S. beef is safe, and join hundreds of millions of other consumers in the United States and around the world who regularly enjoy American beef.

Well, we waited a long time for the market to reopen to American beef, so we don't want to let it get cold.  I will end here.

Once again, on behalf of the American people, may we all enjoy a year of prosperity and peace.  May I offer a simple and familiar toast:  Xin Nian Kuai Le! Wan Shi Ru Yi.