Vice President Lien Chan this afternoon expressed his hope that substantive relations between the ROC and Germany would be further cemented based on mutually-beneficial principles.
The Vice President made the remarks while meeting with former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt at the Grand Hotel in Taipei. During their meeting, the two discussed topics related to internationalrelations, ties between the ROC and Germany, and Asia's financial crisis.
Vice President Lien told his guest that trade and economic ties between the two countries have been very close, with Germany being the ROC's largest trading partner in Europe for years. He also briefed Mr. Schmidt on the financial crisis that has swept Asian economies, saying that Taiwan has been suffering relatively minor impact. The ROC is expected to achieve economic growth this year of about 5 percent, the second highest growth rate among Asian economies, according to the Vice President.
The former German chancellor arrived in Taiwan on October 31 for a five-day visit at the invitation of the New Environment Foundation and the Chinese-language China Times. He made a speech on the "Experiences as the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Challenges of the 21st Century" this afternoon at the Grand Hotel. Prior to Mr. Schmidt's speech, Vice President Lien delivered some remarks in recognition of the former German chancellor's contributions.
The full text of the Vice President's remarks are as follows:
Mr. Schmidt, President Huang of the China Times, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
First and foremost, on behalf of the government of the Republic of China, I would like to extend my sincerest and warmest welcome to former German Chancellor Mr. Helmut Schmidt. As a Confucian saying goes, "It is a great pleasure to welcome friends from afar." This adage best describes our feelings today.
Mr. Schmidt is a renowned German economist, whose political career started as early as 1961 when he became a senator for Hamburg's interior affairs. In 1968, Mr. Schmidt became vice chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The next year, he was appointed federal defense minister. In 1972, he assumed the position of federal minister of economy and finance. From 1974 to 1982, Mr. Schmidt served as chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Within just over 20 years, Mr. Schmidt had become the most influential leader in Germany's post-war era, in addition to being an extremely experienced political figure.
I believe every distinguished guest here today knows very well that when Mr. Schmidt first assumed the office of chancellor, Europe, especially the two Germanys, were forging ahead toward rapprochement. Having gained insight into the situation, Mr. Schmidt energetically launched reform measures by establishing a series of social welfare, taxation and energy policies which revitalized Germany's post-war economy.
Indeed, Mr. Schmidt has contributed much to Germany's economic development. Take his environmental protection policies, for example. In 1978, Mr. Schmidt initiated the so-called "Blue Angel" policy, the first of such kind around the world calling for the use of an eco-labeling system. From the perspective of today's world, which values universal and vigorous promotion of environmental policies to protect the earth, this policy attests to Mr. Schmidt's far-sightedness, a trait we all greatly admire.
In the area of foreign policy, Mr. Schmidt is credited with having strengthened Germany and France's axial roles and maintaining a close military alliance with the United States. In particular, with his successful promotion of "Ostpolitik" and a European policy that stresses the integrated interests of a community of nations, he has done more than just easing the tension between Eastern and Western Europe. On the economic integration of Europe, Mr. Schmidt pressed for the establishment of an auditing system to maintain budget stability among member nations and even pushed for the direct election of the European Parliament. By doing so, he laid the foundation for the pivotal role that Germany would play in determining how fast the European Union would be formed.
One example of how he created this role can be seen in the formation of the European Monetary Union. Had it not been for the vigorous efforts of Mr. Schmidt and former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing in the late 70s to establish a European Rate Mechanism, the coming birth of the Euro as a formal currency next January, may not have been possible.
Today, the global community recognizes Helmut Kohl, who has just stepped down from office, as the "chancellor who united Germany." However, for those who may not know, such as our country's younger generation, Mr. Schmidt is the "pioneer who paved the way for Germany's unification." Even now, as the international community looks back at the Cold War period, Mr. Schmidt receives high marks for his contributions and has been recognized by The Washington Post as the Social Democratic Party's wisest leader.
After Mr. Schmidt left his post as chancellor, Yale University of the United States published his book A Grand Strategy for the West in 1985. In this book, Mr. Schmidt explores and analyzes international politics, economics and security development during the Cold War period. He also shares the exceedingly rich experience gained from his political career and helps us to fully understand his perspective on global strategies.
More importantly, many of his views are in line with today's international developments and may even serve as a reference for the West in forming strategies at the beginning of the 21st century. A Grand Strategy for the West is regarded as a research classic on European politics. Moreover, from published reports on German politics, we can see that Mr. Schmidt is modest a person. He has often reminded himself, that it is dangerous to set one's goals too high. Such humbleness and pragmatism are essential for an international political statesman.
Although there are no formal ties between Germany and the Republic of China, the two countries have been able to maintain close bilateral interaction and economic, trade, technology and cultural exchanges over the past several decades. As early as 1963, Germany established the German Cultural Center in Taipei. Later in 1981, the German Trade Office in Taipei began its services. The ROC has also established representative offices in Bonn, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. After many years of bilateral interaction, Germany has become our largest trading partner in Europe. In 1997, the volume of bilateral trade reached US$9.06 billion, with US$1.7 billion in Germany's favor. Close interaction in areas of finance leads us to believe that there is more room for trade and economic interchange between Germany and the Republic of China.
Distinguished guests: After the end of the Cold War, breathtaking changes have occurred on the political and economic scenes in both Europe and Asia. Thanks to the integration of its currencies, it is very possible that Europe will become the largest and most prosperous economic area in the world. Although the Asia-Pacific region has been affected by a financial crisis, it is also very likely to have the globe's swiftest economic growth at the beginning of the next century.
During the past year, a number of high-ranking political figures from Europe have visited Asian countries. This alone shows that the development of a more extensive trade and economic relationship between Europe and Asia is a sign of the times. While we reflect on the developing situation of these two regions, we should also think about how to further promote integration and cooperation between the two.
Personally, I think that Germany's new government, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the SPD, should consider strengthening cooperation with the ROC and further make Taiwan its gateway to the Chinese mainland and Asia-Pacific markets. By combining Taiwan's advantages in location, language, culture, entrepreneurship, capital and trade experience, and Germany's strength in technology and capital, I am confident that Germany can create even more promising business opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region.
With regard to investment in Asia, I would like to take this opportunity to share with Mr. Schmidt one of my personal views. As we all know, Germany has the world's highest labor wage rate. Germany's high tariffs and unemployment rates have already made an impact on its small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that seek to invest in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.
Presently, the German government has plans to complete the construction of a German Industrial and Commercial Center in Shanghai's Pudong area in the year 2000. This center is to be a gateway for Germany's small and medium-sized enterprises to enter the Chinese mainland and will provide them with relevant information and services. Why doesn't the German government consider instead cooperating with Taiwan's small and medium-sized enterprises to jointly develop the Asia-Pacific market? I say this because Taiwan has a better investment environment, more political stability, and more comprehensive trade and economic laws than the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.
In addition, Taiwan's SMEs have more than a decade's experience in the Chinese mainland. These companies can help reduce obstacles encountered by German SMEs when they invest in the Asia-Pacific region. If the small and medium-sized enterprises of our two countries can fully cooperate with each other, not only will it reduce their investment risks in the Chinese mainland, but it also promises a win-win situation with reciprocity and mutual benefits.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Schmidt has actively participated in the integration of Europe. His far-sighted policies have played a vital role in German reunification. But, more importantly, it was his administration that laid the foundation for Germany to become a leading player in the development of the European Community. Therefore, we firmly believe that Mr. Schmidt can provide us with wealth of valuable advice during his visit here, widening the global view of our government and citizenry while strengthening cooperation between Taiwan and Germany in many respects.
Finally, it is our sincere hope that during his stay in Taipei, Mr. Schmidt will be able to serve as a strong contributing force in the further promotion of bilateral relations between our two countries. In closing, I would like to wish Mr. Schmidt a successful visit, and to everyone present, may you all enjoy good health and happiness.