A more consistent relationship with China requires open channels of communication, both with China's leadership and the Taiwanese people.
(This op-ed first appeared on the Wall Street Journal, 6/1/2015: http://www.wsj.com/articles/taiwan-can-build-on-u-s-ties-1433176635)
For more than three decades, the U.S.-Taiwan relationship has served as a cornerstone of peace and stability in Asia. There is no question that the United States will be Taiwan's most important strategic partner. But Taiwan must also expand our contributions toward a more promising future for the region.
As a vibrant democracy, Taiwan is situated within an exciting yet intricate and ever-evolving security and economic environment. To successfully navigate this arena, Taiwan will need to articulate an open and forward-looking strategy for the future. This agenda is fundamentally premised on robust economic, defense and people-to-people relationships with the U.S., in parallel with a comprehensive and principled engagement with China.
I believe that Taiwan's foreign policy requires a four-pronged approach: first, broadening multifaceted cooperation with the U.S.; second, identifying and participating in international projects that Taiwan can support for the benefit of the world community; third, protecting Taiwan's economic autonomy through trade diversification; and fourth, enhancing principled cooperation with China.
The net impact of this strategy will not only depend on the successful execution of each pillar, but on how we are able to draw linkages between the four elements and put forth a comprehensive paradigm for Taiwan's international role. As I have stated time and again, a strong, comprehensive and enduring partnership with the U.S. is a fundamental characteristic of Taiwan's overall national-security identity. Along these lines, I am committed to enhancing cooperation on joint training, exercises and defense-industrial cooperation.
In addition to strengthening our already extensive ties in these traditional security areas, it is equally important for Taiwan to support the region's capabilities to address nontraditional security threats, highlighted by the growing challenges presented by climate change and the increasing frequency of natural disasters across the Asia-Pacific. I am committed to advancing an open dialogue with the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and other like-minded nations on how we can fortify the region's humanitarian and natural-disaster relief architecture and capabilities.
Beyond security cooperation, I believe that the diversification of our economic ties will prove equally critical in charting the course ahead for U.S.-Taiwan relations. Already, with more than $63 billion worth of goods in bilateral trade last year, Taiwan ranks as America's 10th-largest trading partner today. As Taiwan seeks to diversify its drivers of growth in the next phase of our economic development, we must work to establish robust economic linkages throughout the world, attract long-term foreign investment and cultivate our human capital.
As a first step toward this goal, Taiwan must articulate a stronger trade agenda, which will necessitate changes in how we conduct business and establish strong frameworks to bolster investor confidence. In the near term, ensuring that Taiwan is ready for future candidacy into the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other regional economic agreements will be an important cornerstone of my economic policy. Adhering to international standards, reducing bureaucratic red-tape and streamlining our investment processes are all integral components of this policy fabric that will make Taiwan more nimble, globally competitive and attractive to investment.
Taiwan's integration into regional trade partnerships and investment agreements will catalyze its broader participation in international projects and efforts. As a responsible citizen of the global community, Taiwan already strives to adhere to numerous international standards and frameworks, including those in which Taiwan is not a member.
As Taiwan seeks more meaningful participation in the international arena, it has developed a number of capabilities and skill-sets that it can contribute to the broader knowledge base of the international community. For example, as a leading hub for the high-tech industry, Taiwan is well-positioned to support the development of international trade standards and regulations on cutting-edge, 21st-century trade issues, such as data flows and intellectual-property standards.
Underpinning all of these aims, a more consistent and sustainable relationship with China will be a core goal of my administration. That requires open channels of communication, both with China's leadership and the Taiwanese people. Last March's Sunflower Movement—when activists took over the legislature to protest the lack of transparency in the review of a trade agreement with China—demonstrates what can result when the Taiwanese people feel they have been left out of the discussion.
My priority will be to implement a transparent process to enhance trust and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait. Through principled engagements, joint initiatives and dialogue, I will ensure that the spirit of cooperation that has guided the betterment of China-Taiwan relations continues.
Thirty-six years ago, the U.S. Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act that captured the essence of our partnership with the United States. Through six U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democratic, we have continued to sustain this historic friendship through extensive economic and security cooperation. I have no doubt that our mutual interests in the region's peace and prosperity will further strengthen these bonds and ensure that they will endure for many decades to come.