Senior US diplomat visits Taiwan, meets President Ma
President Ma Ying-jeou received U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin at the Presidential Office on Monday, making him the highest- level serving American official to visit Taiwan in recent years in a sign of improved relations between the two countries.
Rivkin strongly affirmed current U.S.-Taiwan relations, calling Taiwan an important ally, while emphasizing that both countries are key trading partners of one another.
In their morning meeting in the capital, Ma and Rivkin discussed a number of issues, including crossstrait relations, where Rivkin expressed his appreciation on behalf of the U.S. for Taiwan’s role in the marked improvement of relations with China. He also expressed continued support for Taiwan’s efforts to engage China, which have reduced tension in the region to the benefit of the U.S.
The bulk of the discussion, however, was devoted to key economic agreements that Taiwan is eliciting support for, including membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) led by China, and the U. S.- led Trans- Pacific Partnership (TPP). Rivkin reiterated that the U.S. is not opposed to Taiwan joining the AIIB.
A number of bilateral agreements between Taiwan and the U.S., including the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), Select USA and the Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) were also discussed. Taiwan is currently the 10th largest trading partner of the U.S., with bilateral trade amounting to US$67.4 billion in 2014, surpassing U.S trade with Saudi Arabia and India. The 12 current members of the TPP comprise 35 percent of Taiwan’s total trade.
Ma voiced his wish that U.S.Taiwan ties could take the next step forward, with the resumption of negotiations over TIFA, which serves as a stepping stone for a possible free trade agreement between both sides. He also remarked that Taiwan was taking the necessary steps in liberalization and deregulating its economy in order to meet the high standards of TPP membership.
Rivkin is the first U.S. ambassador and former CEO to lead the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. State Department since 2012, while he also served as the U.S. ambassador to France from 2009 to 2013. The Bureau is charged with managing trade negotiations, investment treaties, economic sanctions, international finance, development-related issues and intellectual property rights protection, among other issues.
He is slated to deliver remarks at the opening ceremony of the COMPUTEX Taipei trade show and will speak during the opening ceremony of the Future City Workshop at the Taiwan Air Force Innovation Base in Taipei today.
Both sides also signed the “Global Cooperation Training Framework” (GCTF) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) yesterday to increase bilateral efforts in economic development in the Asia-Pacific region. According to an American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) press release, the GCTF represents: “two like-minded partners working to create new opportunities to demonstrate the meaning of global citizenship.” The bilateral agreement was the first of its kind to be signed in Taiwan.
President Ma Ying-jeou, right, shakes hand with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin at the Presidential Office in Taipei, yesterday.