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President Tsai's address at Europe Day Dinner
President Tsai's address at Europe Day Dinner

On the evening of June 7, President Tsai Ing-wen attended the Europe Day Dinner held by the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan. In addition to extending her gratitude to the Chamber for its longstanding contributions to economic and trade relations between Taiwan and Europe, the president also expressed hope for continued strengthening of bilateral exchanges and cooperation.

A transcript of President Tsai's remarks follows:

Chairman Bernd Barkey, Representative Madeleine Majorenko, members of the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan, and we have heads of mission from EU member states. Today joining me to attend this wonderful occasion are also some of my administration members. I would like to introduce them to you. First of all, my Secretary-General Lin Bih-jaw (林碧炤), Secretary-General of the National Security Council Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維), Minister of Economic Affairs Lee Chih-kung (李世光), Minister of Transportation and Communications Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦), Secretary-General of the Legislative Yuan Lin Chi-chia (林志嘉).

With these ministers with me today here, at this occasion, I am fully equipped. And listening to what Mr. Barkey had to say just now, I have to say that I'm very delighted to join you at this dinner in celebration of Europe Day and the deep friendship between Taiwan, the European community here, and the European Union (EU). Before I begin, I would like to convey my gratitude to the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan, a truly inclusive and diverse organization that brings together the best of what Taiwan and Europe have to offer.

The theme tonight is "Striving together for a better Taiwan," and for over two decades, the Chamber has worked tirelessly to strengthen bilateral investment, economic and trade relations between Taiwan and the EU. The resulting contributions to Taiwan's economic development have been remarkable. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I would like to say: Thank you.

I. The Schuman Declaration and Europe as Beacon

66 years ago, on May 9, 1950, then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman issued a declaration proposing the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community.

By merging their economic destinies, Schuman hoped that European nations would leave behind age-old oppositions and jointly pursue a common future of peace and stability.

His lofty hopes would not be disappointed. This brief declaration set Europe on a path towards unprecedented integration. A six-member community of coal and steel became an economic and political union of 28 member states. Today, the EU stands as a beacon of democracy and freedom, and is a major champion for global peace, stability and sustainable prosperity.

In recognition of these achievements, the EU was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, and its story continues to inspire peoples and nations around the world. This is why, 66 years later, people across the world still get together on every 9th of May to celebrate Europe Day, as proof that countries can indeed set aside the baggages of history, and work together for the benefit of all.

II. Deepening the Taiwan-EU Partnership

The universal values of peace, democracy, freedom, and human rights championed by the EU are also deeply ingrained in the Taiwanese people. We have made this abundantly clear with free and fair elections and the third, peaceful transfer of political power in Taiwan's history.

In the spirit of these values, Taiwan has contributed to the international community as a model citizen. It is also on the basis of these shared values that we will continue to deepen our partnerships with EU countries and other friendly democracies.

Taiwan and the EU have enjoyed increasingly close cooperation and frequent exchanges. The past few years saw the signing of many bilateral agreements, protocols, and MOUs that span the diverse fields of economics and trade, technology, culture, education and academia. The EU's opening of visa-free travel for Taiwanese visitors further intensified bilateral exchanges in all aspects.

In economics and trade, the EU is currently Taiwan's fifth largest trading partner, while Taiwan ranks as the EU's seventh largest trading partner in Asia. Annual trade volume between the two sides has exceeded US$50 billion.

In addition, Europe, thanks to the efforts of many of you seated here today, is the number one source of foreign direct investment in Taiwan, with a total investment of US$34.4 billion.

In 2015, Taiwan became an official member of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), which makes doing business in Europe easier and more convenient for Taiwan's small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).

Taiwan and the EU also jointly organized the European Innovation Week at COMPUTEX Taipei last week, which featured bilateral industrial dialogues, discussions between industrial clusters and associations, and B2B match-making. We are thrilled to see such dynamic links and intimate cooperation between our private sectors.

In another major development, the European Commission in October of 2015 announced a new strategy titled "Trade for All – Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy," which stated that the EU will explore launching negotiations on investment with Taiwan.

This is an important step towards a Taiwan-EU bilateral investment agreement (BIA), and we must thank the European Chamber and many of our European friends present tonight for your support in making this possible.

A Taiwan-EU bilateral investment agreement would be an impressive win-win proposition for both sides. It would strengthen protection for investors and encourage more Taiwanese firms, including SMEs, to invest in Europe and boost local employment.

It would also facilitate entry by European companies into the Taiwan market, and enable them to operate more effectively in an increasingly integrated regional supply chain.

Of course, such an agreement would also help Taiwan to upgrade its industries and diversify its external economy. We are excited by these prospects, and look forward to the start of relevant preparations.

III. A New Model for Economic Development to Solve Taiwan's Pressing Challenges

This strengthening of Taiwan-EU cooperation comes at an opportune time, because Taiwan is facing daunting economic difficulties.

In 1984, I returned home from the UK to become a professor. At that time, Taiwan's society and economy were full of vigor. "The Taiwan Miracle" was how many international observers described our small yet prosperous country.

However, with the rise of globalization and production outsourcing in the last 20 years, Taiwan's efficiency-driven model of economic growth has hit a bottleneck. As a result, wealth disparities are widening, jobs have moved overseas, while salaries at home have stagnated. Our young people especially are bearing the brunt of these hardships.

Our economy desperately needs a new way forward. During my presidential campaign, I promised to build a New Model for Economic Development to transform Taiwan's economic structure and reshape its competitiveness. This is a matter of the highest priority for the new government.

The new model will feature three core elements: first, it must shift the driver of economic growth from efficiency to innovation; second, it must create jobs; and third, the benefits must be equitably shared.
In order to reinvigorate Taiwan's economy, domestic reforms must be accompanied by the reinforcement of Taiwan's global and regional connections. It will be vital for us to actively participate in multilateral and bilateral economic cooperation and free trade negotiations including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

We will also promote a "New Southbound Policy" in order to elevate the scope and diversity of our external economy. These efforts will help ensure Taiwan's economic autonomy and reduce our over-reliance on a single market.

In addition, the new administration is committed to building an even friendlier environment for foreign investors. On this front, the annual position papers published by the European Chamber will continue to serve as a valuable basis for ongoing dialogue and negotiations.

Taiwan's strong rule of law and protection for intellectual property rights already make it an ideal hub in Asia and place to invest. As I have stated before, Taiwan will continue to strive to adhere to international standards and streamline its legal infrastructure and bureaucratic practices, as you rightly pointed out just now.

My government also aims to turn Taiwan into a major base for innovation in the Asia Pacific. In this regard, we have prioritized the development of five major innovative industries, including the biomedical industry, "Asia's New Silicon Valley", smart machinery, green energy, and the defense industry. These five industries will play a vital strategic role in reshaping Taiwan's competitiveness.

IV. Strengthening Cooperation with the EU

These are ambitious undertakings, to say the least. For Taiwan to succeed, an ever stronger partnership with the EU is vital.

For instance, Europe's pioneering efforts in new energy sources and competitive agriculture can serve as valuable references for Taiwan as it tackles economic challenges. The new government will continue to pursue stronger Taiwan-EU exchanges in these and other fields including innovation, high tech, the circular economy, as well as greater engagement between our young people and our NGOs.

There are also exciting new fields that are ripe for greater cooperation. The recent European Innovation Week at COMPUTEX Taipei prioritized smart health, smart mobility, smart industry, 5G, nano-electronics, and satellite and aerospace technologies, among others. In these areas, there is strong synergy between European efforts and Taiwan's endeavors.

We welcome the suggestions by the Chamber on renewable energy, smart cities, industry 4.0 and low carbon initiative. We will certainly benefit greatly from the EU's experience, technology and expertise in pursuing Taiwan's sustainable development.

We will also look into regulatory adjustments needed to attract top specialists and talent to Taiwan. We deeply appreciate the continued support of your Chamber in strengthening Taiwan's economic and trade ties with Europe. 

V. Regional Peace and Stability

Before I close, I would like to say a few words regarding a topic that we all care deeply about, and that is regional peace and stability.

In awarding the Peace Prize to the EU, the Norwegian Nobel Committee noted that the union "transformed Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace." This peace enabled Europe to develop into a formidable engine for global growth and a champion for global stability.

Similarly, a peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific region is in the interest of all parties involved, in the region and beyond. But security situations here in the region have become increasingly complex in recent years, with rising tensions in flashpoints such as the South China Sea.

As I have said time and again, Taiwan is steadfastly committed to the maintenance of regional peace and stability. We will engage in proactive, intensive and regular communication with all parties involved to prevent misjudgment, to establish mutual trust, and to effectively resolve disputes.

In the Taiwan Strait, we will work to maintain the status quo of peace and stability, and forge a consistent, predictable and sustainable cross-Strait relationship.

We will also foster greater regional cooperation on issues of shared importance. On the challenge of global warming and climate change, Taiwan stands ready to contribute. Proactive participation on emerging global issues such as humanitarian aid, medical assistance, disease prevention and research, anti-terrorism cooperation, and the joint tackling of transnational crime will also ensure that Taiwan becomes an indispensable partner of the international community.

Concluding Remarks

In closing, I would like to thank the organizers again for inviting me here tonight. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I would like to thank the EU and people of Europe for being our unwavering friends and partners.

In return, I promise you that under my leadership, the new government will boldly pursue the reforms necessary for Taiwan to become a better place to do business, and a better partner for lasting peace and prosperity.

Please accept my cordial best wishes for a lasting Taiwan-EU friendship, and for continued good health and fortune to you all.
Have a wonderful Dragon Boat Festival.

Thank you.

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