Minister of Foreign Affairs David T. Lee (李大維);
Prospect Foundation Chairman Chen Tang-shan (陳唐山);
Ambassador Makarim Wibisono (Chairman of the Governing Board of the Indonesian Council on World Affairs);
Dear Guests with us today;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
To start, I would like to welcome former ASEAN Secretary General Ambassador Surin Pitsuwan, Ambassador Wibisono, honorable members of parliament from ASEAN nations, eminent scholars, and all of our distinguished guests. Welcome to the first ever Taiwan-ASEAN Dialogue.
We should also thank the Prospect Foundation, the Indonesian Council on World Affairs, and the Habibie Centre. They worked very hard together to organize this important platform for Taiwan-ASEAN exchange and cooperation.
Today's event will engage a wide variety of issues, and our hope is that this platform will enable broad conversations and open exchanges, so that the ties between Taiwan and ASEAN nations will keep growing, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Taiwan sits exactly where Northeast Asia meets Southeast Asia, so Taiwan's economic development cannot be separated from those of neighboring countries. Our economies are highly complementary, and are bound together by deep trade and cultural ties. The potential for future development is great.
Since its founding in 1967, ASEAN has grown to ten member states, with a combined population of over 600 million. Today, ASEAN is Taiwan's second biggest trade partner, and also our second biggest export market.
Beyond economics and trade, there is also impressive people-to-people exchanges. Last year for instance, fully 40% of foreign students in Taiwan came from ASEAN countries.
These add up to a very strong foundation for us to build on, and to take Taiwan-ASEAN cooperation to the next level. In fact, we are already integrating public and private sector resources to develop comprehensive links with ASEAN nations – and the entire regional market.
As we push ahead with our New Southbound Policy, vision and direction will turn into concrete initiatives. Recently, the Presidential Office and the National Security Council finalized the policy guidelines, and the Executive Yuan has taken the lead on implementation.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) has already convened several meetings to coordinate implementation plans by individual agencies, and he has asked Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) to oversee progress. In other words, Taiwan's New Southbound Policy has entered the operational phase.
So let me take a moment to elaborate on the New Southbound Policy. To put it in simple and concrete terms, we want to achieve three objectives in our relations with ASEAN and South Asian nations, and Australia and New Zealand as well. The first is to strengthen mutual understanding. The second is to steadily expand two-way exchanges. The third is to forge strong and comprehensive partnerships. Let me expand on each of these.
On the first objective – strengthening mutual understanding – we will pursue greater cooperation between think tanks, so that we can get a better handle on each country's social, economic and political situations and policies. We will also invest in second-generation immigrants in Taiwan, and encourage them to join our New Southbound Policy efforts. We firmly believe that they are the best connectors between nations and peoples.
We have allocated NT$1 billion for education. This will expand government scholarships for Taiwanese students to study in ASEAN countries, and for ASEAN students to study in Taiwan. It will also let young Taiwanese people go volunteer and work in Southeast Asia.
To sum up the first objective: strengthening mutual understanding is really about connecting people. That is the basis for lasting friendship.
Our second objective is to steadily expand two-way exchanges, and this will happen on two levels. On the governmental level, we will push for closer interactions between government departments, and mutual visits by senior officials. We want to build a new kind of partnership, by engaging in both bilateral and multilateral exchanges, in culture, tourism, medicine, science and technology, agriculture and other domains.
On the societal level, we are already making progress. Right after we simplified visa application for ASEAN citizens, more than 120,000 ASEAN visitors came to Taiwan this September. That is a 19% jump compared to the same month last year.
So we are making strides on our second objective, and foresee that two-way exchanges will continue to expand at a brisk and steady pace.
Our third objective is to forge strong and comprehensive partnerships. The government will help Taiwanese companies set their southbound strategy, and establish strong links with local markets. We will also expand cooperation with ASEAN countries in key areas like infrastructure building and financial services.
Regional linkages will be important as well. We will work to sign Economic Cooperation Agreements (ECA) with major trade partners, and to renew bilateral investment protection and tax treaties. This will give companies greater investment security, and make them more competitive.
At the end of last year, the ASEAN Economic Community was officially established, and ASEAN is well on its way to realizing the "ASEAN Community Vision 2025".
Like ASEAN, Taiwan is an important member of the Asia-Pacific region. We have a responsibility to contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity. We fully embrace our role, and as ASEAN embarks on further integration, Taiwan will be a most reliable partner for ASEAN on this journey.
Dear friends: our New Southbound Policy is underway. In the coming weeks and months, my government will concentrate resources and push ahead with implementation. For instance, we will hold events and exhibitions on Taiwan in major cities in ASEAN. We will expand the role of our international agricultural development companies. We will recruit more foreign students, and we will make concrete progress on investment projects.
Of course, we will continue to share our development experience with our ASEAN friends, through official interactions, private investment, people-to-people exchanges and other means as well. There is a lot to do, and a lot to be excited about.
We are very thankful to the organizers for making this important dialogue possible. I am certain that it will meet with great success, and that all participants will benefit greatly from the discussions. I congratulate all of you, and wish you nothing but success as you write the next chapter in Taiwan-ASEAN relations.