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  • President Ma meets delegation led by US-Taiwan Business Council Chairman Paul D. Wolfowitz
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President Ma meets with a delegation led by US-Taiwan Business Council Chairman Paul D. Wolfowitz. (01) President Ma meets with a delegation led by US-Taiwan Business Council Chairman Paul D. Wolfowitz. (02)
President Ma Ying-jeou met on the morning of April 19 with a delegation led by US-Taiwan Business Council Chairman Paul D. Wolfowitz. The president applauded the Council's contributions to Taiwan-US economic and trade ties over the years, and briefed his visitors on the state of Taiwan's relations with the US and mainland China.

In remarks, President Ma noted that the US-Taiwan Business Council, which was established in 1976, has long provided information on industrial development and opportunities for cooperation in an active effort to promote bilateral economic and trade ties, and the results have been outstanding. The president further noted that Mr. Wolfowitz's long and illustrious career has included stints as US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, US deputy secretary of defense, and president of the World Bank. Mr. Wolfowitz had just led a delegation to Taiwan in November of 2015, and his quick return, said the president, is a clear indication of the great importance that the Council places on Taiwan.

The president pointed out that upon taking office in 2008 he began working actively to improve cross-strait relations, and over the past seven-plus years the government has consistently sought under the framework of the ROC Constitution to maintain the status quo of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force" in the Taiwan Strait, and to promote peaceful cross-strait relations in line with the 1992 Consensus—whereby each side acknowledges the existence of "one China" but maintains its own interpretation of what that means. The two sides have signed 23 agreements during that same period, the ministers in charge of cross-strait affairs from each side have met seven times, referring to each other using their official titles during these meetings, and the cumulative number of tourist arrivals from the mainland has topped 18 million. In addition, the number of mainland students studying in Taiwan has jumped from over 800 before he took office to over 42,000. All of these achievements are historic breakthroughs, he said.

President Ma further explained that sufficient cross-strait trust has been built up to enable a meeting on November 7 last year between himself and mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore, where the two sides exchanged views on how to consolidate cross-strait peace and maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In a meeting this past March 31 with Mr. Xi, President Barack Obama also spoke in very positive terms about the historic progress in cross-strait relations over the past eight years.

President Ma remarked that friendly interaction between Taiwan and the mainland over the past eight years has brought Taiwan many peace dividends within the international community, and also created a stable three-way relationship between Taiwan, mainland China, and the US. "This marks the first time in history," said the president, "that the formerly vicious cycle in the three-way relationship has been transformed into a virtuous cycle." The president stressed that this description is not simply self-congratulatory rhetoric—far from it; the excellent state of affairs has been acknowledged by US officials on many occasions. Last year, for example, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton described Taiwan as a vital partner of the United States in East Asia, and emphasized that the stable management of cross-strait ties has been an important ingredient of close Taiwan-US cooperation in recent years. This and other such commentary amply demonstrate the positive impact of cross-strait ties upon Taiwan-US relations, said the president.

Turning to the subject of bilateral relations, President Ma stated that since taking office eight years ago he has restored high-level trust between Taiwan and the US, and the government has taken a "low key, no surprises" approach that has brought tremendous progress in bilateral ties. The number of agreements signed between Taiwan and the US, which stood at 90 before he took office, has increased to more than 150, an increase of more than 70%. Regarding security cooperation, President Ma noted that bilateral relations are now the best they've been at any point since enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979. The US has sold the ROC more than US$20.1 billion worth of arms over the past eight years, compared to US$8.4 billion during the two terms of his immediate predecessor, former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and US$16.2 billion during the presidency of Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Commenting on Taiwan-US economic, trade, and investment ties, the president stated that Taiwan became the ninth-largest trading partner of the US in 2015, up from number ten and ahead of such nations as India, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil. The US, for its part, has moved past Japan in the past two years to become Taiwan's second-largest trading partner. US President Obama has also launched the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, and Taiwan sends a major trade mission each year to attend. In addition, President Ma visited a Formosa Plastics (FP) plant during a stopover in Houston this past March. The building of that plant, he said, brought the total amount of FP investments in the US to US$7 billion, and established FP as the sixth-largest petrochemical company in America. FP employs 2,000 people locally, and the visit to its plant impressed upon him the close nature of economic, trade, and investment ties between Taiwan and the US. The president expressed hope that the friendly ties between the two nations will continue into the future.

Remarking on the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), President Ma noted that the 12 TPP members account for 37% of Taiwan's total external trade, so Taiwan is determined to join this important regional economic integration agreement as soon as possible. In the World Trade Organization, he said, the ROC has been America's closest cooperative partner in the latter's active promotion of the Information Technology Agreement Expansion (ITA II), the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA), and other important agreements. In addition, both houses of the US Congress have passed a bill supporting observer status for Taiwan in the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and Taiwan has been admitted to the US Global Entry program, which will make customs procedures more convenient for US and ROC nationals entering each other's country. Breakthroughs such as these clearly demonstrate the friendly and mutually beneficial nature of bilateral ties between Taiwan and the US.

With the assistance of the US, remarked President Ma, Taiwan in recent years has actively pushed for regional peace, including peace in the East and South China Seas. He proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative in 2012, and a 40-year fisheries dispute between Taiwan and Japan was effectively resolved eight months later. And on this past April 9 he visited Pengjia Islet to commemorate the third anniversary of the signing of the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement. This agreement enables fishermen from Taiwan and Japan's Ryukyu Islands to fish undisturbed in a maritime territory twice the size of Taiwan, and has been strongly praised by the US Department of State, which stated that the agreement has made an important contribution to regional peace. An important conceptual underpinning of the East China Sea Peace Initiative, he said, is the idea of shelving sovereignty disputes and sharing natural resources, and this same concept is also being applied in the South China Sea. Since he unveiled the South China Sea Peace Initiative, Taiwan and the Philippines have signed the Agreement Concerning the Facilitation of Cooperation on Law Enforcement in Fisheries Matters, which has resulted in much fewer fisheries disputes than had occurred over the past several decades in the two countries' overlapping economic zones. "Peace initiatives proposed by the ROC," said the president, "will always be welcomed by one and all, because there are no losers in peace, and no winners in war."
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