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President Tsai attends opening of Yushan Forum
President Tsai attends opening of Yushan Forum

On the morning of October 8, President Tsai Ing-wen attended the opening ceremony of the Yushan Forum, where she stated that Taiwan is willing and able to participate more actively in regional partnerships, and China's efforts to isolate Taiwan have done nothing but hinder regional prosperity and stability.

A transcript of the president's remarks follows:

Good morning. Welcome to the 2019 Yushan Forum. And for all of our international participants, welcome to Taiwan.

Gathering such a large community of policymakers, activists, and scholars is no easy feat. I want to thank Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation Chairperson [Michael] Hsiao(蕭新煌)and his team for making this event such a success.

I also want to take a moment to welcome some special guests:
The Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Former Prime Minister of Canada;
Ambassador Shivshankar Menon;
Ms. Sandra Oudkirk, U.S. Senior Official for APEC and Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands;
And Ms. Sarah Sanders, former White House Press Secretary.

It is wonderful to see all of you in Taiwan. Your unique backgrounds in the Indo-Pacific will surely offer valuable insights into regional developments.

This year marks the third year that the Yushan Forum has brought us together to explore progress and partnerships in South and Southeast Asia, and the greater Indo-Pacific community. I am delighted to see that this forum is becoming an important platform for regional dialogue.

At last year's Yushan Forum, Chairperson Hsiao said: "Taiwan is not a question, but an answer instead." This is simple idea but it carries so much power.

I want to take a moment to share a few examples of Taiwan's commitment to answering regional needs through our New Southbound Policy.

There are more than 50,000 students from New Southbound countries currently studying in Taiwan, nearly double the number in 2015. And in 2018, the number of Taiwanese students in New Southbound countries reached 20,000 for the first time.

These young minds are the future of our region, and this international experience is helping expand their horizons so they can address regional issues from a regional perspective.

We also see the need for quality medical care and more medical professionals in the region. In 2018, more than 150,000 patients from New Southbound countries came to Taiwan for treatment.

But even more important to these countries are the more than 600 medical professionals we trained in 2018. Each day, they are using the skills they learned in Taiwan to save lives, and offer a better quality of life for their patients.

We also see tremendous economic potential in South and Southeast Asia across travel, trade, and investment.

In 2018, we reached a record high of more than five million visits between Taiwan and New Southbound countries. 2.6 million of those travelers were New Southbound tourists visiting Taiwan, nearly a 70% increase from 2015. To put that in perspective, for every four travelers in Taiwan today, one of them is from a New Southbound country.

Taiwanese firms are also continuing to expand operations in New Southbound countries, bringing economic growth, job opportunities, and increased trade. Over the last three years, Taiwanese firms have invested more than US$10 billion in New Southbound countries.

For the first time ever in 2017, our total trade with New Southbound countries surpassed US$100 billion. And last year that number reached US$117 billion, a nearly 20% increase over 2015.

But these numbers do not tell the whole story. Looking to the future, global supply chains will continue to realign in the face of trade conflicts and developments in the international economy. And when Taiwanese firms look for new production bases, South and Southeast Asia are their top destinations.

Working together, we have the potential to create important supply chains right here in the region. And these supply chains will help link us more closely with global markets.

Last year, I spoke about our region at a crossroads. This year, we are a region in transition. We are faced with the difficult task of securing a safe, prosperous, sustainable world for future generations. And no country can achieve this alone.

Taiwan is willing and able to participate more actively in regional partnerships. And contributions that can make the world a better place should never be subject to political pressure, or blocked by unilateral coercion.

China's efforts to isolate Taiwan have done nothing but hinder regional prosperity and stability.

And the international community of like-minded countries has shown time and again that it is willing to stand beside Taiwan, and recognize our important role in the Indo-Pacific region.

As a key regional partner, Taiwan is indispensable to realizing a peaceful and prosperous future. And I trust that all of you here recognize that fact. I ask that you continue to stand with Taiwan, and work together with us to forge stronger regional partnerships in the years to come.

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