On the morning of October 11, President Tsai Ing-wen attended the opening ceremony of the Yushan Forum. She explained Taiwan's efforts to promote a sustainable future in the region, demonstrating the spirit of the forum and our New Southbound Policy: Taiwan helps Asia, and Asia helps Taiwan.
A transcript of the president's remarks follows:
Good morning, and once again, I want to say: "a very warm welcome to Yushan Forum."
First of all, I really want to thank Mr. de Klerk (F. W. de Klerk, former President of South Africa), and also Mr. Satyarthi (Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner), for your words. I am most touched, and most inspired by your words, wisdom and experience. So I also want to thank Mr. Satyarthi who insisted that I have to stay and listen to what you have to say today. Thank you.
The forum is a unique platform celebrating diversity, innovative, and progressive values. It is also a platform for us to review Taiwan's engagement with partners from the region under the New Southbound Policy.
So I want to thank the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation led by Chairman [Michael] Hsiao (蕭新煌) for shouldering this important task. They have done an excellent job of hosting this event, and bringing us an exceptional group of speakers and participants this year.
I also want to welcome and thank everyone coming from home and abroad for your participation. Now, again, please allow me to take a moment to give special thanks to our special guests.
Of course, the first one is Mr. de Klerk, former President of South Africa, and Mr. Satyarthi, who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for supporting education for children. We have many friends from Japan. But this one in particular I want to mention, is Mr. [Keiji] Furuya, Chairman of the Japan-ROC Diet Members' Consultative Council. Thank you for coming today.
Thank you for coming here to support us. I trust that the wealth of knowledge and experience you have brought to us today, will help the Yushan Forum become Asia's premier events on regional affairs and cooperation. As the world's economic growth engine, and home to more than half the global economy, this region can largely define the direction of the world. And this region is standing at a historical juncture. The growing tensions between global trading powers are also presenting us with unprecedented challenges of this century.
Coupled with the growing demand for inclusive growth and sustainable development in the world, we need more cooperation between Indo-Pacific societies, to take collective actions and shape our future together.
At the first Yushan Forum last year, I stressed that a more connected Taiwan can be the driving force behind such regional cooperation. One year on, we have been seeing the results of the policy.
First, we are empowering many of the best and brightest of this region. In the first half of this year, we have over 41,000 students coming from New Southbound Countries to study here. Next year, we aim to welcome a total of 48,000 students from New Southbound Countries to study in Taiwan. Our young people are also choosing the New Southbound Countries as their study destinations. Last year, the number of Taiwanese students studying in these countries increased by nearly 20%.
On tourism, over the past two years, we already saw more than four million tourists from New Southbound Countries coming to Taiwan. I trust that by forging those people-to-people ties, we are also facilitating greater communication and understanding between our peoples.
Another key element of this policy, that is the New Southbound Policy, is to promote a sustainable prosperity for our future generations. That is reflected in our theme this year: "Working Together for Regional Prosperity."
I am pleased to see our public and private sectors join forces to share Taiwan's know-how with the region. In 2017, our government and private firms have signed a total of 69 MOUs and letters of intent for cooperation with the New Southbound Countries. And our trade in the region is also growing. Last year alone, bilateral trade between Taiwan and New Southbound Countries grew by around 15% year-on-year. Taiwan investment in those countries rose by 54%, and approved investment by our partner countries in Taiwan also increased by around 15%.
We are not only investing in our partners, we are also creating long-term partnership that benefits this region today, and tomorrow. We have created and renewed cooperative ventures with the New Southbound Countries. In particular, we are helping them build capability in agriculture, public health, and ICT. Decades from now, when our next generation asks us, what we have done for them at this juncture of history, the collective action we are taking today will be the answer in the future.
Yushan Forum is a testimony of our commitment to our New Southbound Policy, and to this region. I trust this year's forum will present the continued efforts of Taiwan's government, private sector, and civil society in promoting a sustainable future in the region.
To close, I want to borrow a quote from former Vice President [Teofisto] Guingona of the Philippines. At last year's Yushan Forum, he said: "We help each other. The Philippines to help Taiwan, and Taiwan to help the Philippines".
I take this quote to heart, because more broadly, it is the spirit of everything we're doing at the Yushan Forum and the New Southbound Policy. That is: "Taiwan can help Asia, and Asia can help Taiwan."
So I thank each and every one of you for showing your support, and joining this year's Yushan Forum. I look forward to your insights and comments on how we can cooperate and work together to create a stable, prosperous, and sustainable future. Thank you.