President Lee Teng-hui attended, upon invitation, the Second Americas' Gala Dinner today and delivered the following speech:
Today, I am very delighted to attend the Second Americas' Gala Dinner and get together again with old friends on such a lovely and peaceful evening.
According to an old Chinese saying: "Real friends, however far away, are as close as next-door neighbors." Despite geographical distance, America and the Republic of China have enjoyed a long-standing friendship with frequent and close exchanges and contacts.
The United States and Canada in North America are not just two major technology suppliers to the ROC's enterprises, but they are also our significant economic and trading partners. In the first eight months of this year, our trade with North America amounted to US$34.3 billion, constituting 24.1% of our total foreign trade. Looking to the future, two-way investment and trade between North America and the ROC will further expand in the wake of the ROC's admission to the World Trade Organization.
Being diplomatic strongholds of the ROC, Central and South Americas have maintained close political and economic relations with us. In the economic arena, trade between Latin America and the ROC reached US$6.1 billion in 1997, while mutual political and cultural exchanges and visits have been on the rise. I vividly recall my visit in September last year to Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, and Paraguay, where I received the warmest hospitality from their governments and peoples. During that visit, I had a summit meeting with the Central American heads of state and the prime minister of Belize. They all agreed to support the ROC's admission to the Organization of Central American States and participation in the United Nations. Such goodwill and cordial friendship will always be cherished by all the ROC people.
Currently, the greatest concern of the international community is the Asian financial crisis, which has made a tremendous impact on the world economy since its explosion in July 1997. Thanks to its sound economic structure, the ROC has only been affected in a minor way. However, as a significant player in the world's economic community, we deeply understand the close interdependence among the members of the global village. Therefore not only have we lent a helping hand to our Asian neighbors floundering in economic difficulties, but we have also actively advanced our substantive relations with American nations. In particular, we have provided necessary economic assistance to our Latin American allies in order to promote stability and economic prosperity in those nations.
In trade, we have worked with our Central American counterparts to sign free trade agreements, to establish Taiwan Trade Centers in their countries and a joint Central American representative office in Taipei, and to assist in building a regional packaging center in Central America. All these are expected to function as channels to promote mutual economic exchanges and trade.
In investment, we have encouraged our state-run and private enterprises to invest in Latin America. Currently, 16 ROC government enterprises, including Taiwan Sugar Corp., have invested in that region, and our private business sector has set up a Latin American investment holding company, which will come into operation soon.
In technological cooperation, the ROC, its Central American allies, and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) have jointly established the ROC-Central American Economic Development Fund, which provides, on a case by case basis, capital and technology needed for the economic development of those Central American countries. Furthermore, the ROC has dispatched its overseas service corps as well as agricultural and fishery missions to assist in their vocational, and economic training, and to help upgrade their agricultural and fishery technologies.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Our American allies have rendered the greatest support to this country during its modernization process. Having accumulated abundant developmental experience and achievements, we now would like to contribute to the international community through practical actions. I hope that upon the existing foundation, the governments and peoples of our countries will work hand in hand to promote regional well-being and open up a new era of peace, cooperation and prosperity.
In closing, may I invite all of you to join me in a toast to the continued prosperity of our countries and good health and happiness to each and every one of you. Thank you.