On the morning of October 8, 2020, President Tsai Ing-wen delivered a speech via video at the opening of the 2020 Yushan Forum: Asian Dialogue for Innovation and Progress, which was held by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF). In remarks, she explained Taiwan's concrete achievements in containing the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting the New Southbound Policy. The president also emphasized that since taking office, she has been proactively promoting the New Southbound Policy in the spirit of "Taiwan helps Asia, and Asia helps Taiwan." We hope to work with regional partners to foster sustainability and share responsibilities, she said, which aligns with the theme of this year's Yushan Forum—"Forging a Resilient Future Together."
A transcript of President Tsai's remarks follows:
It is my pleasure to welcome you all, especially the many guests who are joining us online, for this year's Yushan Forum. I am also delighted that a number of international friends who are unable to attend in person have, for the first time, taken the initiative in recording messages for this important event.
This year marks the fourth edition of the Yushan Forum, which serves as a dynamic platform to promote dialogue and deeper cooperation between Taiwan and its partners in South and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
This year is a particularly challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has fundamentally altered how we live, think and behave. Thanks to advanced technology, the Internet, and Taiwan's success in containing COVID-19, we are able to convene the Yushan Forum this year.
Through videoconferencing, the forum participants will discuss regional development cooperation and global governance issues in the post-pandemic era. We will also explore how the New Southbound Policy can enhance collaboration between Taiwan and partner countries once the pandemic has subsided.
In recent years, the Indo-Pacific region has accounted for 50% of world trade and 60% of global gross domestic product. The region now plays a pivotal and increasingly influential role in the development of global industrial supply chains. However, the escalation of strategic competition in the international arena has produced major changes in the geopolitical and economic landscapes of the Indo-Pacific.
Our democratic system and security continue to face persistent military threats and provocations from particular sources. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the globe, these developments pose unprecedented challenges to our shared prosperity and way of life.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries worldwide are facing industrial supply chain restructuring, stagnant economic growth, constrained movement of people across borders, lack of market confidence, and many other serious issues. During all of this, Taiwan has maintained a relatively strong position in Asia and the world, through the concerted efforts of our compassionate and resilient people.
We have safeguarded our democracy, overcome persistent security threats and weathered economic challenges. We are able to quickly respond to the rapid changes in the global environment, through organizational efficiency, respect for professionalism, and decisive leadership. We have leveraged our democratic system, universal health insurance and medical care system, as well as our experience in combating SARS in 2003, to implement a comprehensive government command system to fight the coronavirus.
Our endeavors are also underpinned by integrated cross-ministerial resources and capabilities, public-private sector cooperation, big data, and smart technologies. Our approach in containing and preventing the spread of coronavirus has been proactive, decisive, and, most importantly, transparent. As of this week, Taiwan has approximately 500 confirmed cases, while related deaths remain in single digits. Our people have been going about their lives as usual. There were no lockdowns in our cities. And, our economy continues to grow and has performed better than the other Asian Tigers. Taiwan has once again demonstrated its resilient spirit, leading by example and creating a successful model for the region and the international community.
Former [Australian] Prime Minister [Malcolm] Turnbull and many participants with us today are prominent leaders and experts, who will steer the Indo-Pacific region forward and shape its vision through our shared values.
Countries in the Indo-Pacific region and Taiwan are complementary in many ways, and Taiwan is willing and able to collaborate with our Asian partners. Therefore, since taking office, I have been proactively promoting the New Southbound Policy in the spirit of "Taiwan helps Asia, and Asia helps Taiwan." We hope to work with regional partners to foster sustainability and share responsibilities, which aligns with the theme of this year's Yushan Forum—that is "Forging a Resilient Future Together."
The New Southbound Policy is Taiwan's regional strategy for Asia. Its goals and ideals coincide with those of the "ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific" and India's Act East Policy. Working together, these initiatives can achieve mutual benefits with complementary economic and social successes.
Taiwan has donated millions of face masks, as well as protective suits and pandemic prevention supplies to our New Southbound Policy partner countries. In addition, Taiwan and some of its partner countries have established a strategic alliance to ensure the supply of raw materials for pandemic prevention products. With that, we are actively working to fight COVID-19 together.
One of the most important goals of the New Southbound Policy is to ensure sustainable prosperity for the Asian community. Since 2016, Taiwan has signed more than 70 agreements and memorandums of understanding with New Southbound Policy partners to bolster cooperation in diverse areas such as the economy, trade, education, agriculture, science, and technology. And, despite the pandemic, we have continued to enjoy robust trade with these countries.
Last year, trade between Taiwan and these partners totaled nearly $112 billion US dollars. And, the figure for the first half of this year reached approximately $52 billion US dollars, holding steady year-on-year in spite of the pandemic.
When it comes to education collaboration, more than 53,000 students from the region studied in Taiwan last year, and the number of students in industry-academia collaboration programs also increased significantly. These educational programs not only train talents for national development, it also establishes connections for Taiwanese businesses in the partner countries.
In tourism, there were about 2.8 million visits to Taiwan from tourists of our partner countries in 2019, that is a 6.8% increase. Taiwanese tourists reciprocated with 3.2 million visits. And, that is a growth of 15.1% from the previous year. This has spurred the development of tourism industries in the region and record exchanges between our peoples. Under the New Southbound Policy, Taiwan and our partner countries have created mutually friendly investment environments. People-to-people relations have grown even closer, as have industrial linkages.
Bilateral cooperation and exchanges have expanded in international healthcare, the halal industry, agricultural demonstration zones, e-commerce, and other domains. While Taiwan seeks to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, that is CPTPP, we also look forward to working with our regional partners to advance prosperity, peace and stability through the signing of bilateral economic cooperation agreements.
We will proactively contribute to the creation of a region that is open, free, inclusive, transparent and equal, and operates under a rules-based order. We oppose any heavy-handed and unilateral aggressive actions that jeopardize regional security and solidarity. Any political attempt to prevent Taiwan from sharing its experience and making contributions does not serve the collective interests of the region.
I very much agree with [TAEF] Chairman Michael Hsiao's (蕭新煌) observations during last year's Yushan Forum. He said the New Southbound Policy envisions five "M"s for Taiwan and its partner countries—that is make wealth, make jobs, make friends, make families, and make values. And, Taiwan has demonstrated, time and again, that it is an indispensable friend and partner for the region.
Lastly, I would like to thank our good friends from Australia, the United States and other like-minded countries who are participating in this forum to express their support for Taiwan in this uncertain time. I also want to thank those who are participating in the Yushan Forum online, including those from regional partners and European countries.
Taiwan is looking forward to working with all our partners worldwide to build a resilient future.
The Office of the President mentioned that this year marks the fourth Yushan Forum, which was held by the TAEF with the theme "Forging a Resilient Future Together." In addition to President Tsai's opening remarks, government officials and experts from around the world were also invited to discuss the topics "Realizing Partnerships and Collaborations in the Post-COVID-19 World" and "Mitigating Global Challenges through Innovative Approaches" via video. Executive Yuan Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳), the moderator of the Roundtable Dialogue, was tasked with discussing collaborations in Asia and global governance in the post-COVID-19 era.