President Ma Ying-jeou met on the afternoon of December 29 with United States Congressman William Lewis “Bill” Owens and Mrs. Owens. The president extended a cordial welcome to Congressman and Mrs. Owens on their visit to Taiwan. He also expressed his hopes that progress will be seen with regard to entry for Taiwan in the US Visa Waiver Program and the sale of F-16C/D fighter jets to Taiwan. President Ma furthermore said he hopes that interaction and cooperation between the two sides will continue to strengthen.
In remarks, the president commented that the American Institute in Taiwan recently announced that Taiwan has become a candidate nation to enter the Visa Waiver Program. The president said he was extremely pleased by this development. To date, 124 countries and territories have granted ROC nationals visa-free or landing visa status, he said, adding that the United States is not among those countries. The president specially pointed to the United Kingdom as an example of the benefits. After that nation granted visa-free courtesies to Taiwanese, the number of people from Taiwan visiting the UK increased by 1.5 times. If the United States formally includes Taiwan in its Visa Waiver Program next year, it is expected that the number of visits made by the Taiwanese to the United States annually will increase from the current level of about 400,000. This will also help to forge deeper bilateral contacts.
President Ma stated that Taiwan and the United States maintain close cooperation in the area of security. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during this year's APEC meetings in Honolulu emphasized the important security and economic partnership between Taiwan and the United States. The present US administration in September of this year approved the upgrade of Taiwan's fleet of F-16A/B fighter jets, and the president said he hopes that the United States will in the near future agree to sell Taiwan F-16C/D fighter jets, which would enhance the ability of Taiwan to protect itself.
Commenting on ties between Taiwan and the United States, the president noted that Taiwan cooperates closely with the United States on the Megaports Initiative, and also has for two consecutive years been listed as a Tier 1 country (the highest ranking) by the United States in its report on efforts to prevent human trafficking. In addition, Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman both recently made visits to Taiwan, highlighting the increasingly close relations between the two countries. Both of the American officials exchanged opinions with their counterparts here on issues related to international assistance and energy development, and the president said he hopes that the visits will help to spark closer mutual interaction and cooperation in these areas.
President Ma stressed that over the past three-plus years, the government has sought to improve cross-strait relations. Over this period, Taiwan and mainland China have held seven rounds of talks which have yielded 16 agreements. The ability of the two sides to address disputes in a peaceful manner aligns well with US policy towards Asia, and has won the strong support of President Barack Obama. In particular, the signing of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010 has helped to institutionalize cross-strait economic and trade dealings, and also has significantly improved Taiwan's position in the international economy. President Ma said he hopes the United States will continue to show its support for Taiwan.
The president also mentioned that the United States at this year's APEC meetings indicated its strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The ROC in the future will continue to bolster its economic relationships with its major trading partners in the region and will promote the signing of economic cooperation agreements. Taiwan's ultimate goal is to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership within the coming 10 years, he added.
Congressman and Mrs. Owens were accompanied to the Presidential Office by Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew N.D. Yang (楊念祖), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tung Kuo-yu (董國猷), and Acting Director of the American Institute in Taiwan Eric H. Madison (馬怡瑞) to meet President Ma. Also attending the meeting was National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Chih-kung Liu (劉志攻).