On the evening of May 18, President Tsai Ing-wen attended the 2017 Europe Day Dinner held by the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan. In addition to expressing hope that the European Union (EU) will continue supporting Taiwan's meaningful participation in the international community, the president also called for the signing of an investment agreement between Taiwan and the EU as soon as possible in order to enhance bilateral economic and trade relations.
The following is a transcript of President Tsai's remarks:
Good evening. It is wonderful to be back here to celebrate Europe Day with you. When I came here last year, I was new on the job, and you gave me such a warm welcome.
I want to start by thanking Chairman Håkan Cervell and the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan for inviting me. And I also want to thank you for making the effort to prove that I'm actually more popular than last year.
And I also want to thank Ms. Madeleine Majorenko and her team, as well as the heads of mission from European countries, for constantly bringing Taiwan and the EU closer.
A lot of this administration's ministers are also here tonight, would you please stand up so everyone can see you? The fact that these important ministers are here speaks to how deeply we value our ties with your community.
The past year has been a year of reform for Taiwan. It has also been a year of economic rebound, and of vibrant growth in Taiwan-Europe relations. None of this could have happened without all of you, so I want to say thank you.
Tonight, I am not going to recite the history of Europe Day. But I do want to mention the Rome Declaration that was signed just a few weeks ago, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Within that declaration is an important phrase: "Europe is our common future."
But let me draw your attention to another line near the start, which celebrates "a community of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law," a community of values, in other words.
And if we speak of a community not of geography but of values, then Taiwan very much stands together with Europe. Values like peace, freedom and democracy are as important to Taiwan as they are to Europe, and serve as the bedrock on which we have built a thriving partnership.
Recently, we saw these values in action as member states, the European Parliament and other institutions joined others in the world to support the fundamental human rights of Taiwan's 23 million people to take part in international health decisions.
We are thankful for this support, and hope you will continue to back our efforts to participate and contribute meaningfully to the international community.
While Taiwan-EU relations have come a long way, I know that there is much we can still do, and in the areas of trade and economy in particular. That is the theme of tonight after all – that is, to build lasting economic momentum.
My government has been very vocal about our belief that, in order for Taiwan's economy to break out of stagnation and into a new period of growth, we must transform our economic structures, upgrade our industry, and make our economy more innovative and inclusive than ever.
Now, let me share with you some of the important work we have been doing, and where we envision that working together would benefit everyone.
You already know about our 5+2 innovation program to spark innovation in defense, smart machinery, biomedicine, the Internet of Things, green energy, new agriculture, and the circular economy of course.
Over the past month, we have also announced that we are committing NT$880 billion to dramatically upgrade our digital, water, green energy, rail transport, and urban-rural infrastructures.
On the regulatory front, which I know is important to many of the businesses here, the government is making it easier to bring in foreign talent. And we are also working to enhance protections for intellectual property and simplify investment procedures.
These efforts not only offer enormous opportunities for the European companies, they also make Taiwan a better place to do business in.
Take green energy for instance, which has been a major focus for the European Chamber. Your 2017 position papers observed that the natural conditions, skilled personnel, and technical know-how are all in place in Taiwan.
What is needed is a more coherent regulatory environment and better market conditions. Well, we have just amended the Electricity Act to liberalize the market, and we are putting in place the required infrastructures such as specialized ports and vessels for off-shore wind.
It is not just green energy either. We are ready to intensify cooperation with you across fields such as industry 4.0, new agriculture, and others in which our experience and capabilities complement one another.
While we hope that you will invest more in Taiwan, we also hope you will partner with our companies to venture into the booming markets of South and Southeast Asia.
European companies have long cultivated strong presence and ties in these regions, and many of you are quite familiar with the cultures and ways of doing business there. Taiwan, meanwhile, is also rapidly building up a broad range of links with the launch of our New Southbound Policy.
By matching our strengths and needs, we can more effectively identify and develop the wealth of untapped markets and unmet demand in those regions.
So, strengthening Taiwan-EU relations would be hugely beneficial to all parties involved.
One important milestone will be a bilateral investment agreement. I said this in my speech here last year, and in many speeches since then, so you would know how important we think such an agreement is.
An investment agreement would benefit investors, companies, and consumers in both Taiwan and Europe. We hope that preparations will soon be completed so that we can begin open and practical negotiations.
This would really help to further institutionalize and strengthen our bilateral economic relations.
Ladies and gentlemen: year after year, we come together to honor this day in history, and to celebrate the triumph of peace and unity over war and division.
At the same time, however, we are aware as ever that in order for peace and unity to endure, we need to build economies that continuously deliver sustainable progress to society, high-quality jobs to workers, and better lives for all.
Taiwan is fully committed to working with Europe and the European business community to bring about such an economic future.
Please continue to give us your input. Our doors are open to you, and you know that. We value your community, not only because you are the biggest source of FDI (foreign direct investment) for Taiwan – you really are. I'm very impressed by these big names in this room. And I also want to thank you for being with me tonight. As I said, I understand there are more people here than last year, and that proves my popularity. All the economic numbers here are growing and improving, of course with some exceptions. But of course another exception is my approval rate. You wonder why all the numbers are improving except the approval rate. It's because people are impatient, they want the government to move faster, and to work harder. That's what we intend to do, and we intend to do it with you. Thank you