Spreading the Word on Why Taiwan Matters

AmCham Taiwan Senior Advisor Don Shapiro spoke at the Washington launch of Taiwan Matters.

At an event on Capitol Hill, a publication co-sponsored by AmCham Taiwan and the East-West Center received its official U.S. launch.

At a time when global economic and political developments are drawing increasing attention to Taiwan, AmCham Taiwan has collaborated with the East-West Center in Hawaii and its Washington DC office on a project called Taiwan Matters for America/America Matters for Taiwan. The initiative has resulted in a 38-page booklet outlining the broad range of robust connections between Taiwan and the U.S. in such fields as trade and investment, technology, regional security, education, the environment, and the promotion of democracy and good governance. (PDF copies can be downloaded from www.eastwestcenter.org/publications).

The Taiwan launch of TMA/AMT occurred at AmCham’s Hsieh Nien Fan banquet in March, when President Tsai Ing-wen was presented with a copy of the booklet.

The U.S. launch took place September 20 with a ceremony and reception in the Rayburn House Office Building attended by nearly 100 guests involved in U.S.-Taiwan affairs. AmCham Taiwan Senior Advisor Don Shapiro represented the Chamber as one of four speakers delivering opening remarks. The others were East-West Center President Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum, who flew in from Honolulu; Satu P. Limaye, vice president of the East-West Center and director of the Washington office; and Wang Liang-yu, deputy representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the U.S., who substituted for Ambassador Hsiao Bi-khim.

Keynote remarks stressing the strength of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship were delivered in person by Congressmen Steve Chabot of Ohio and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who are among the four co-chairs of the House Taiwan Caucus. Senator Jim Inhofe, co-chair of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, spoke by video.

East-West Center President Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum

In a panel discussion on the U.S.-Taiwan security relationship, Randall Schriver, chairman of the Project 2049 Institute and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, stressed the close security partnership forged in 1979 through the U.S.’s Taiwan Relations Act and implemented over the decades by means of arms sales, military training, and other security assistance. He noted that the current American policy of “integrated deterrence” encompasses strengthening economic as well as military ties, plus actively encouraging U.S. allies to join the effort.

Fellow panelist Shelley Rigger, Brown professor of East Asian Politics at Davidson College and a recognized authority on U.S.-Taiwan relations, cautioned that Taiwan should not be treated merely as a strategic asset for the U.S., but should be supported because of its intrinsic value, including its role as a shining example of democratic practice and dedication to human rights.

During a panel on the economic relationship, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the Washington-based U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, called for the U.S. to elevate its economic ties with Taiwan by negotiating a bilateral trade agreement and helping Taiwan to participate in more multinational agreements. He said such initiatives will be critical in “countering Chinese efforts at coercion” against Taiwan.

On the same panel, Don Shapiro cited the high level of optimism regarding Taiwan’s economic potential that was reflected in AmCham’s 2022 Business Climate Survey released at the beginning of the year. Despite the serious impact of the Ukraine war on supply chains and other aspects of the global economy, as well as the heightening of Chinese pressure against Taiwan following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August, the internal fundamentals for doing business in Taiwan remain strong, he said.

East-West Center Vice President Satu P. Limaye

The final panel looked at the importance of people-to-people ties. William Vocke, former executive director of the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange (Fulbright Foundation), noted that the mutual understanding developed through tourism, student exchanges, and other opportunities for personal contact can help to inform and shape foreign policy. Richard Pearson, executive director of the Western Pacific Fellowship Project, explained how a bill pending in Congress would enable selected U.S. civil servants and other qualified applicants to learn Mandarin Chinese and then spend a year embedded in a Taiwanese government agency, NGO, or business entity. The goal is to train more specialists with area expertise in Taiwan affairs. Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute, described the mission of his organization, the first U.S.-based think tank devoted to U.S.-Taiwan relations, in expanding bilateral connections and understanding.