President Tsai Ing-wen received the International Pioneer Award for Leadership from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at about 7:00 a.m. local time today (December 3, around 6:00 p.m. US EST) and delivered a speech via video. The ALEC's inaugural award was given to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2006, making President Tsai the second international leader to receive this honor.
In her video speech President Tsai emphasized that, as president, she will continue to preserve and defend Taiwan's democracy, freedoms, and way of life. She also looks forward to making progress on a bilateral trade agreement with the United States, Taiwan's second largest trading partner and most important security ally, further enhancing our close economic and trade partnership, and continuing to stand strong to defend democracy and freedom around the world together.
A transcript of President Tsai's speech follows:
Thank you for inviting me to join your virtual summit this evening. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I am honored to receive the International Pioneer Award for Leadership. Noting its other recipient, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2006, let me echo one of her most famous phrases, that is “When people are free to choose, they choose freedom.” Although former Prime Minister Thatcher faced different challenges at different times, her strength and convictions continue to resonate with us today.
In Taiwan, we have lived through dark periods of authoritarian rule. When still a one-party state and under martial law, individual liberties were curtailed and political freedoms were almost non-existent. Through the courage of democracy activists, the dedication of the leadership within and outside government, and the determination of our people, Taiwan became one of the freest and most vibrant democracies in Asia. We are proud of our democratic story. And we are willing to share our experience. Countries always have a choice of a better path forward. Taiwan has made its choice, that is, embracing democracy and its values.
As president, my role is to preserve and defend Taiwan's democracy, freedoms, and way of life. I will never stop seeking a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship, nor will I compromise when making decisions needed to keep Taiwan secure. Over the past four years, we have made historic increases to our defense budget, as well as new investments in capabilities that better respond to the realities of the threat we face. We have always stepped up our actions to combat disinformation and foreign malign influence operations in our society. These actions have enhanced the confidence of our people while we tackle challenges and set sail towards the future.
Taiwan's strength is also based on our economic vitality. Over the past few years, we have encouraged new investments in innovative sectors, continued to make necessary regulatory adjustments, and worked to diversify our economy into new markets.
This led to low unemployment, and sustained economic and wage growth. By keeping ahead of supply chain shifts, returning investments by Taiwanese companies have now reached historical highs. Taiwan is now in a stronger economic position than it has been for decades.
But, as a trade-dependent country, we must make every possible effort to strengthen our trade and economic relationships with our trade partners. Therefore, I look forward to making progress on a bilateral trade agreement with the United States, our second largest trading partner and most important security ally. I am grateful to the 50 bipartisan members of the Senate, as well as over 160 members of the House who expressed their support for this agreement. Such an agreement would further enhance our close economic and trade partnership, and also reinforce America's support for Taiwan in the face of unrelenting intimidation from across the Strait.
As we move towards 2021, the Taiwan-U.S. partnership holds enormous opportunities for growth. I deeply appreciate ALEC's continued friendship towards Taiwan, which is consistent with our shared values and common interests. I am confident that together, we will always stand strong to defend democracy and freedom around the world.
Thank you once again for honoring me with the International Pioneer Award for Leadership. I wish you all a successful summit.
ALEC was established in 1973, with members primarily drawn from various state legislatures and private enterprises. The largest organization of state legislature members in the United States, ALEC has passed several Taiwan-friendly resolutions over the past few years including a resolution supporting the Taiwan Travel Act in 2018, and a resolution in 2019 commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act and reaffirming US commitments to Taiwan.
On the afternoon of December 3 (US EST) during the ALEC Virtual States and Nation Policy Summit, ALEC Chairman and Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn awarded President Tsai the International Pioneer Award for Leadership to acknowledge her exemplary leadership. As ALEC conferred the inaugural award on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2006, it was significant that President Tsai became the second international leader to receive this honor. ALEC passed the Resolution Supporting the United States in Signing a Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) with Taiwan at this year's summit, supporting and urging the US government to immediately negotiate a BTA with Taiwan.