After attending the inauguration of Honduran President Xiomara Castro, Vice President Lai Ching-te's delegation to the Republic of Honduras left for San Francisco en route to Taiwan on the morning of January 28 local time (evening January 28 Taipei time). Upon the delegation's arrival in the US following their six-hour journey aboard a charter flight, American Institute in Taiwan Chairman James Moriarty boarded the plane to welcome Vice President Lai before he and his delegation headed to their hotel where they received a warm reception from overseas community members.
That evening, the vice president took part in a videoconference with members of our overseas community in San Francisco to share his thoughts on the trip as well as Taiwan's recent successes in fighting the pandemic and developing the economy.
In remarks to the overseas community members, Vice President Lai said he was very happy to be in San Francisco and have the chance to speak with everyone, and that even though they were not able to meet in person, their virtual gathering still felt like a very warm occasion. Vice President Lai thanked the participants for taking the time to meet online and join him to discuss the future of Taiwan, and also expressed gratitude to all the community members who came out to welcome him at the hotel, saying that from their enthusiasm he could feel their support for Taiwan. The vice president also expressed hope that our overseas community can work together with the government to help Taiwan make further progress and garner greater respect on the world stage.
Vice President Lai then invited attendees to give a warm round of applause to AIT Chairman James Moriarty, and said that the chairman was a good friend to Taiwan who has shown considerable care and support for our country throughout his decades-long diplomatic career. The vice president added that Chairman Moriarty has always been there to accompany both himself and President Tsai Ing-wen when transiting through the US and has appealed to the US to provide our government with substantial assistance, which allowed for the vice president's delegation to be ensured a safe, comfortable, and convenient transit through Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Vice President Lai mentioned that he made this trip as President Tsai's envoy to represent the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Republic of Honduras, our diplomatic ally, at the inauguration of their first woman president Xiomara Castro. The vice president also stated that Taiwan and Honduras celebrated 80 years of diplomatic alliance last year, and that over the years, we have faced many challenges together and supported each other, with Honduras speaking up for Taiwan on the international stage and Taiwan helping Honduras resolve many issues.
Vice President Lai stated that when President Castro was running for office, she mentioned that if elected, she would establish official ties with the People's Republic of China, which led to his delegation's visit receiving significant international attention. But he informed the participants that President Tsai has provided principled leadership throughout, and our diplomatic personnel have also worked diligently over many decades; no matter which political party has been in power, Taiwan has developed a staunch friendship with Honduras built on a firm foundation.
The vice president also said that visiting Honduras during the pandemic demonstrated Taiwan's sincerity, and as a result, the delegation was welcomed enthusiastically. He cited examples of their warm reception, including Honduran Ambassador to the ROC Eny Yamileth Bautista Guevara seeing the delegation off upon departure and Honduran Consul General in Los Angeles Maria Fernanda Rivera welcoming them upon arrival, as well as his two meetings in Honduras with President Castro and meal at his hotel with Honduran Vice Presidents Doris Alejandrina Gutiérrez and Salvador Nasralla along with Vice President Nasralla's wife. Vice President Lai stated that Honduras' newly elected president, vice presidents, and ministers all expressed on numerous occasions how much they value their ties with Taiwan, as well as their hopes to deepen cooperation going forward.
Vice President Lai also noted that he would be engaging in mutual exchanges with US political leaders in San Francisco both that day and the following day to exchange ideas about issues including peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, future economic development, climate change, and disease prevention. The vice president went on to say that these kinds of exchanges help give US officials and politicians a comprehensive understanding of Taiwan's efforts, demonstrate Taiwan's willingness to participate in and contribute to the international community, and are a valuable experience.
The vice president then pointed out that, because the people of Taiwan have been united in the fight against the pandemic, we have been able to limit its impact on our society and maintain economic growth. He then mentioned that Taiwan's 2020 economic growth of 3.11 percent was the highest among the Four Asian Tigers, and that last year's economic growth is expected to top 6 percent. The vice president also noted that our export figures have grown for 17 consecutive months, while per capita GDP has risen this year to US$30,000, and attributed these accomplishments to the shared efforts of the people and government of Taiwan.
Vice President Lai pointed out that during his stopovers in the US many local political leaders have expressed concern about Taiwan's position on the front of the threat posed by China. However, the vice president also said that the US and the international community admire Taiwan for our commitment to democracy and for our refusal to abandon our sovereignty, democracy, freedom, and human rights in the face of China's threats. Noting that he and President Tsai received 8.17 million votes in the 2020 presidential election, the vice president said this means that it is not just our government that remains true to its principles and values; the Taiwanese people, too, have demonstrated great courage, showing that calmness, rationality, unity, cooperation, democracy, freedom, and human rights are what define Taiwan.
Vice President Lai said that President Castro's inaugural address made a deep impression on him, because many of her goals and the situations she has encountered mirror what Taiwan went through in the past, but after decades of hard work, Taiwan has now come a long way. The vice president said that much of the momentum for this transformation came from abroad, in particular from our overseas community in the US that has made great efforts to encourage support for Taiwan. The vice president then expressed his thanks to the overseas community members for their hard work and contributions.
Vice President Lai added that Taiwan still has many issues to overcome, as our country faces no fewer challenges than anyone else, so the only way forward is to continue working together in unity and supporting Taiwan. If we can do this, he said, Taiwan will move ahead one step at a time, turning each challenge into a springboard for further progress.