The Rabbit is Sprung

Soon after this issue is in your hands, I’ll be landing in Washington, D.C., and returning a “window on Japan” to my life. By March I will have taken over stewardship of the National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS), a developer of thought and exchange programs for 38 grassroots societies across North America that promote virtually all aspects of ties with Japan.

I am sorry to leave Taiwan somewhat abruptly – and amid a riveting chapter in our U.S.-Taiwan story. I had a remarkable 24 months with AmCham Taiwan. Thank you, 1,160+ member-volunteers, Chairpersons C.W. Chin and Vincent Shih, and Governors. Thank you, dream team of 14 office mates powering this Chamber. Thank you, also, Taiwan government and AIT partners and stakeholders. Now, let’s warmly welcome back my one-time Commerce Department colleague, Amy Chang, who returns to the Chamber after a few years away to serve as Interim President until a permanent successor is brought aboard. True to my wordy nature, I sign off sharing milestones, work in progress, and hazard a few lookaheads.

Expanding Washington advocacy – with your help, we balanced a Taipei-heavy governmental dialogue and combined it with our Washington one, creating a three-party conversation. This in turn drew together our economic reform and commercial diversification and integration agendas. In my third month I wrote an opinion piece in The Hill, calling for an MOEA-USDOC investment initiative a half year before the very similar “Technology Trade & Investment Collaboration,” or TTIC, came into being. A few months after that our Chairperson joined a TTIC program in Seattle on nextgen telecom, and our new Semiconductor Committee contributed to setting the TTIC agenda. How cool was that!

Next up? Having helped thaw five years of ice around the U.S.-Taiwan “TIFA talks,” how can AmCham help maneuver Taiwan into the “IPEF” structure? Spur on digital economy and/or double tax avoidance talks? Find that elusive on-ramp to bilateral trade agreement negotiations? Gauge the trade-friendliness of Speaker McCarthy’s Ways & Means Committee? Articulate the top five messages for delivery on next summer’s Doorknock?

Keystone hires, while promoting internal talent, have strengthened your office team, better supported a membership that keeps growing at double digits, and re-energized programming. Our wage review and merit compensation updates will enhance matters, while clearer annual work plans and increased professional development investments will help retain this talent. We have an energetic team with flexible, creative approaches to problem-solving and emerging opportunities. Next up? What more can we do with member engagement to serve as a resource for internships or even initial job placements? Secure a “best-place-to-work” award?

After learning through our August “Post-Pelosi” flash survey that members wanted a focus on security, we’ve produced six “Spotlight on Resilience” webinars. Second, after accelerating the relaxation of Taiwan’s Covid-related border restrictions by a good month, we’ve instituted the Visitors and Issues Program to access the resulting surge of travelers. Third, to support the Taiwan-to-U.S. FDI wave, we’ve been exploring a cross-business-culture training platform patterned on our successful NextGen program. Next up? Does the Chamber favor it? Which programs, if any, to wind down – and which to crank up?

Equipped with a new registration, logo, and brand, AmCham Taiwan is ready to network and attract members island-wide. Next up? How might we best work with AmCham Taichung and AmCham Southern Taiwan? How to instrumentalize mayoral lunches as growth vectors? A Board meeting in Tainan? What about regular programs in member prospect-rich Hsinchu?

Bolstered by 60 net new company members since 2021, including Taiwan capital MNCs, we are a stronger, more diverse Chamber. Next up? What size and shape do our leaders envision as optimal two, four, or six years down the road? What is the best revenue model and staff size to support those members? (AmChams have opted for service packages and a ratio of one staff to about 70 members.)

Setting up a Semiconductor Committee brought in a dozen multinational members and thrust our Chamber into the world’s hottest discussions of industrial policy. Next up? How can we capitalize? What is the next exciting subcommittee expansion? Education? Entrepreneurship? Investment and/or Taiwan Outbound Investment? Should other committees be consolidated or sunset based on the new committee metrics?

To amplify a past-President’s strategic messaging, we’ve refreshed the look of TOPICS and Chamber website, expanded content swaps, and reached out to major media. In March we presented President Tsai Ing-wen the Taiwan Matters for America monograph. Last month we premiered podcasting with AIT Director Oudkirk. Next up? How do we optimize content and channels to spread positive, accurate messages about Taiwan commerce, continuing to debunk mis/disinformation, including the “most dangerous place” and “hollowing out” falsities?

In sum, I wrap up with sincere gratitude for my selection to join you two years ago, a rank-beginner in all things Taiwan, and the satisfaction at having achieved my three top objectives: to leverage my Foreign Service background to contribute to a blossoming economic dialogue with D.C., rebuild a team with top talent, and encourage that team to think outside the box, even as they nurtured marquee projects and traditions. I’ve developed a deep fondness for Taiwan and its super-hospitable people, so I will be pulling for the country at every turn, especially through the present unsettled period.

Until I see you in D.C. or on some U.S.-Taiwan-Japan webinar… thank you and jia you.