During a meeting on the morning of January 8 with a delegation from the Taiwan Studies Workshop at Harvard University's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, President Ma Ying-jeou warmly welcomed the group to Taiwan and exchanged opinions with them on developments between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and the trilateral relationship involving Taiwan, the United States, and mainland China.
In remarks, the president commented that members of the research team are all distinguished scholars and experts in the field of Asian studies or cross-strait issues. These individuals, he said, have long focused on developments in Taiwan, the United States, and mainland China. In the wake of Taiwan's presidential election last year, the United States, Korea, Japan, and mainland China have all seen leadership change hands, he noted. Meanwhile, the president remarked, US President Barack Obama has further shed light on his policy of rebalancing toward Asia . President Ma said he is confident that this trip to Taiwan by the delegation will foster greater understanding on a variety of related topics.
With respect to relations between Taiwan and the United States, President Ma commented, over the past year Taiwan and the United States have continued to maintain a close relationship in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances to Taiwan. He pointed out that high-ranking US officials continue to visit Taiwan and bilateral relations are exhibiting stable growth in a wide variety of areas. For instance, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November of 2011 stated that Taiwan is an important security and economic partner of the United States. In July of last year, Taiwan resolved the issue of US beef imports to Taiwan, he said. Moreover, in September of last year at the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, Mr. Lien Chan (連戰), who was President Ma's representative at the event, met with Secretary of State Clinton, and they reached a consensus that negotiations under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the two countries should be resumed. At the same time, the United States formally included Taiwan in its Visa Waiver Program on November 1 of 2012. Taiwan became the 37th country included in the program, and the only one which does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with the United States, he noted. Taiwan's inclusion in this program marked one of the more important events in the relationship between the two countries over the past century, he added.
President Ma stated that at the same time that Taiwan is developing economic and trade relations with the United States and Japan, it also hopes to have an opportunity to join in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) within the next eight years. This will enable Taiwan to further participate in regional economic integration, he said. The president also expressed his hope that Taiwan can complete investment agreements or economic cooperation agreements with TPP member states, such as Singapore and New Zealand. Then Taiwan can create a free trade environment, which will generate conditions for joining the TPP, he remarked.
As for cross-strait economic relations, President Ma stated, in August of last year Taiwan and mainland China signed the Cross-Strait Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement and the Cross-Strait Customs Cooperation Agreement. In addition, in December of last year, the two sides inked the Memorandum on Currency Clearing Cooperation Across the Straits. At present, Taiwan and mainland China are engaged in follow-up negotiations under the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), with the hope of reaching a consensus on "trade in services" and "trade in goods." Progress is being seen in these talks, he stated.
With respect to the development of cross-strait economic and trade ties, President Ma cited data indicating that as of the end of last year Taiwan's exports to mainland China accounted for 40% of all of its exports. This percentage, however, has not increased since 2008, he said. In other words, while growth in the volume of cross-strait trade has increased greatly, Taiwan's trade volume with ASEAN has also increased. Consequently, Taiwan's reliance on exports to mainland China has in fact not increased from previous levels, he explained. The president also pointed out that four years ago, the goods involved in 46% of orders received by Taiwan companies were manufactured overseas, while today that percentage has increased by less than five percentage points.
President Ma furthermore stated that mainland China constitutes Taiwan's largest trading partner and is where 90% of overseas production by Taiwan companies takes place. However, the rebalancing strategy pursued by the government over the past four years has gradually reduced the weighting of cross-strait trade and increased the volume of trade between Taiwan and other regions, he said. This proves that the government is not putting all its eggs in one basket, the president remarked.
The president then turned the discussions to the Diaoyutai Islets. He explained to the visitors that the government has consistently advocated that the Diaoyutais are inherent territory of the ROC and are appurtenant islands of Taiwan. On August 5 of last year, President Ma mentioned, he unveiled his East China Sea Peace Initiative, which is based on the principle that although the ROC's sovereignty over the Diaoyutais cannot be compromised, natural resources can be shared. President Ma cited the example of the North Sea, over which many European countries once engaged in a sovereignty dispute. Nations involved in the North Sea dispute, however, decided to resolve it by sharing resources in the area. Today, he said, Brent Crude has become one of the most important petroleum trading classifications in the world. If the experience of the North Sea can be replicated in the East China Sea, positive developments for the parties concerned would be forged, he commented. President Ma expressed his hopes that the concerned parties would recognize the existence of the dispute and decide to shelve the dispute, instead focusing discussions on topics related to the sharing of resources. This is the best and only means of resolving this controversy, he said.
The delegation was led by Steven Goldstein (Director of the Taiwan Studies Workshop at the Fairbank Center) , and included Alan D. Romberg (Distinguished Fellow and Director of the East Asia Program at the Henry L. Stimson Center), Joseph Fewsmith (Director of the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia) , Robert S. Ross (Professor of Political Science at Boston College) , and Sheena Chestnut Greitens (a fellow at the Fairbank Center) . The group was accompanied to the Presidential Office by Prospect Foundation Chairman Louis W. H. Tzen (鄭文華) to meet President Ma. Also attending the meeting were Secretary-General to the President Timothy Chin-tien Yang (楊進添), National Security Council Secretary-General Jason C. Yuan (袁健生), and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tung Kuoyu (董國猷).