Opening Statement - The Future of U.S.-Taiwan Relations

Feb 11, 2016

Chairman Salmon’s Opening Statement
As Prepared for Delivery
Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
“The Future of U.S.-Taiwan Relations”
Thursday, January 11, 2016 | 2:00 pm

My heart goes out to Taiwan as it deals with the aftermath of the shocking magnitude-6.4 earthquake on February 6 that claimed 63 lives and injured 551. I am saddened to hear about the damage the earthquake wreaked, and I know I am joined with my colleagues of the subcommittee in continuing to support Taiwan through this difficult time.

Today, we celebrate Taiwan’s democracy, given its recent presidential and parliamentary elections in January. In this regional context, Taiwan’s free and fair elections, vibrant free-market economy, and open society set an example for the region and the world. With the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) victory, the party has won its first-ever absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan, which has until now been controlled by the Kuomingtang (KMT). President-elect Tsai Ing-wen will also be Taiwan’s first female president. This third peaceful transfer of executive power is an indication of the maturation of Taiwan’s democracy.

The recent election presents the United States with more opportunities to improve our political, security, and economic relationship with Taiwan. We are here to parse out the priorities of President-elect Tsai’s administration, understand the prospects and potential for the U.S.-Taiwan and the cross-Strait relationships, and to discuss how the United States can continue to honor our commitments to Taiwan. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses on these important issues. 

The cross-strait relationship has been relatively stable under the sitting KMT President Ma Ying-jeou. President Ma took strides to build closer relationships with China, especially in trade. To his credit, President Ma negotiated the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), with China in 2010. This paved the way for Taiwan’s expanded trade ties under similar “economic cooperation agreements” with New Zealand and Singapore. The suspension on the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) as a result of domestic protests in 2014 may have indirectly contributed to China’s tightening on further trade agreements between Taiwan and other countries. With slow economic development, untapped potential due to political constraints, and heavy reliance on trade, I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panels, especially our Administration witness, about Taiwan’s economic and trade prospects, and how the United States can help Taiwan overcome these challenges. 

I also worry about the potential for cross-strait stability, as China has not hesitated to remind us that it is still willing to use military force against Taiwan. Of note, China continues to press President-elect Tsai and her administration to acknowledge the “1992 Consensus,” something President Ma has adhered to.  President-elect Tsai will continue to face pressure here, given her party’s own interpretation of the agreement. Despite her underscoring her intention to maintain the status quo, and saying “There won’t be provocation and there won’t be surprises,” we cannot say the same for China. A steady stream of threats to Taiwan’s national security are an everyday reality for Taiwan and its people, and I hope our panels can shed light on how we can continue to support Taiwan’s security under the Taiwan Relations Act, and through increased cooperation.

I admire outgoing President Ma, and all that he was able to accomplish for Taiwan. I look forward seeing how we can continue to work with President Tsai for the mutual benefit of the United States and Taiwan.

Members of Congress have always held a shared interest in supporting Taiwan’s security and democracy, and having lived there for two years while serving a church mission, I am one of its biggest supporters. In a time when Taiwan’s presence in the international arena is constantly being threatened, in a time when Taiwan’s security is not assured from coercion or potential attacks, I urge our Administration to continue to support Taiwan. We must prioritize Taiwan’s active and meaningful participation on the global stage, ensure its self-defense capabilities are sufficient, and ensure that its economy continues to grow vibrantly and compete with other major powers in the region.