INTERVIEW: AIT chairman pledges to bolster Taiwan-US relations

Staff Writer, with CNA  / 

Sat, Oct 29, 2016 - Page 3

The new chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday pledged during a visit to Taiwan to further improve the already strong ties between Taiwan and the US.

James Moriarty, who took over as AIT chairman earlier this month, said relations between the two sides would remain unchanged after a new US president takes office early next year.

Moriarty said that “support for Taiwan in America is very broad-based.”

“Taiwan is viewed as a successful, mature democracy, a prosperous economy that we need to have a close relationship with,” he said. “There is no debate in America right now about the future of US-Taiwan ties.”

He praised Taiwan’s economic development, saying that the 23 million-strong population is smaller than that of the state of Texas, but that Taiwan has still managed to become the US’ ninth-largest trading partner.

Moriarty, who is visiting Taiwan for the first time since he took up the post, also said that Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) is a good example of cooperation between Taiwan and the US.

Taiwan and the US last year signed a memorandum of understanding on the GCTF to expand bilateral cooperation in international public health, humanitarian assistance and other global issues.

They have since co-organized several workshops in Taiwan on the fight against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and dengue fever, as well as women’s issues and e-business.

In addition to the ties between Taiwan and the US, Moriarty also reaffirmed the US’ stance of supporting Taiwan’s membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement and meaningful participation by Taiwan in organizations where statehood is required for membership.

In response to questions about Taiwan’s failure to attend the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly this year due to China’s objections, Moriarty said he supports Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in the organization, adding that it would add a lot to technical discussions on global aviation safety.

“We will continue to work with Taiwan to address these questions and to look for organizations where we can help the voice of Taiwan be heard,” he said.

Asked if the US has sensed that Beijing is stepping up its suppression of Taiwan’s international participation, he said: “That’s hard to tell.”

“We will look to see and continue discussing these issues with the authorities here, but we’ll also be holding discussions in Beijing and trying to understand if there is a trend or if you’re seeing specific instances that don’t amount to a trend,” he said.

In response to questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Moriarty spoke of US President Barack Obama’s efforts to ensure the passage of the trade deal by the US Congress before he steps down in January next year.

Moriarty said that whoever is elected US president, he hopes they will realize that TPP is “a very solid agreement and is very much in the interest of the United States.”

It is also important for partners in Asia to see the agreement be passed by the US Congress, he said.

Commenting on the issue of imports of US pork containing ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing drug that is banned in Taiwan, he said the issue needs further discussion.

“We believe that if Taiwan is genuinely interested in joining the TPP, it needs to move to a broad-based acceptance of international standards based on scientific evidence,” he said.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a UN body that sets food standards, voted in July 2012 by a 69 to 67 margin to allow ractopamine residues in pork, beef and turkey.

Soon after the commission’s vote, Taiwan formally eased the ban on US beef imports containing traces of ractopamine, which led to the resumption of major trade talks between Taiwan and the US.

However, the ban on ractopamine in pork has remained in Taiwan because of concerns that even trace amounts of the drug could be harmful to people’s health given the large consumption of pork among Taiwanese.

With regards to the TPP, he said the focus is to have the agreement ratified by all 12 founding members.

The founding members are the US, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan.

Moriarty, who departs Taiwan today, has decades of experience in Asia, including Taiwan, at senior leadership levels in the US government and the private sector, according to the AIT.

He has served as US ambassador to Bangladesh and Nepal, special assistant to the US president, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council and director for China affairs at the National Security Council, the AIT said.