Taipei Times: As the most senior US official to visit Taiwan in more than a decade, how would you characterize your trip?
Rajiv Shah: I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity to visit Taiwan. The purpose of my visit is to explore opportunities in which the USA can partner with Taiwan and a number of different areas in development cooperation.
We met today with the president [Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)], government officials and leaders from the private sector, businesses and philanthropies in order to explore whether we can broaden our partnership and pursue our development goals: to help eliminate food insecurity and hunger, to accelerate saving as many children’s lives as possible in low-income countries around the world and to help improve the ways the international community responds to disasters wherever they occur.
We are excited about the progress we hope to make and really want to build on Taiwan’s emerging work in support of this type of developing partnership.
TT: However, a high-level visit by a US official to Taiwan is always a political indicator of bilateral relations. Is there any political connotation to your visit?
Shah: I will see if Bill [American Institute in Taiwan Director William Stanton] would like to answer that. From my perspective, I was just in meetings in South Korea, where the entire global development community of more than 25,000 people came together to create new standards, norms and new global partnerships to reaffirm our commitment to development and trying to alleviate suffering and supporting economic growth around the world. And the theme of that meeting was that we should do everything we can to bring new partners to the fore to achieve better outcomes. Taiwan is one of those new partners.
Taiwan already has spending resources in other countries for the purpose for expanding access to vaccines, helping in Haiti or Japan at times of international crisis. We would like to expand our partnerships there.
TT: Was your trip arranged in line with remarks made by US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding resumption of visits by US senior officials to Taiwan?
Shah: Secretary Clinton in particular has asked the USA to make sure we are doing everything we can in Asia where our assistance can be used to help create more economic opportunities and to help alleviate suffering so that we build a safer and more prosperous world. And, frankly, being here at this [“American Footprints in -Taiwan”] exhibit is a good example of why we do this work.
Our partnerships with Taiwan back in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s represented a relatively small investment — US$1.5 billion, at that time — but as a result of the successful partnership, Taiwan is one of our largest trading partners. We have jobs at home because of that partnership. That’s why we made this type of investment in development both to improve conditions for people around the world and to ensure jobs and economic prosperity at home.
TT: US-Taiwan relations seem to be stagnating in comparison with other Asian countries that have ties with the US strategically, militarily or economically.
Shah: No, in the area of international cooperation in development, Taiwan has a lot to offer. Taiwanese vaccine manufacturers can create low-cost, high-quality vaccines and help save lives around the world. If we could engage those Taiwanese experts in science, technology and agriculture in other parts of the world, we could reduce child malnutrition and improve global efforts to end hunger. We are optimistic that our joint efforts can really achieve results around the world.