At 12:30 p.m. on January 14 local time (4:30 a.m. January 15 Taipei time), President Tsai Ing-wen and her accompanying delegation, who made a transit stop in San Francisco after returning from Central America on a trip codenamed the "Ing-Jie Project," attended a luncheon there with Taiwanese expatriates, more than 800 of whom showed up to give the president an enthusiastic welcome.
In remarks, President Tsai, speaking first in a personal capacity, extended a warm welcome to Marie Royce, a good friend of the president's and of Taiwan. The president expressed confidence that most of the those present probably knew Marie's husband, Chairman Ed Royce of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, one of Taiwan's staunchest friends in the US Congress. The president also thanked Marie Royce, Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, and friends from the California State Legislature for their attendance.
President Tsai pointed out that during the just-concluded trip to Central America she developed a strong sense that relations with countries there are very stable. This stability is not due to her visit, but is rather due to the many things that Taiwan's diplomatic corps has done for our friends in the region. Taiwan's agricultural missions, in particular, could well be described as having "the Midas touch," so much have they done to foster prosperity. The president mentioned that our agricultural missions have shared Taiwan's technologies with its diplomatic allies, thus helping local farmers to grow and even export crops. In addition, Taiwan has also assisted with education in remote areas. For such contributions as these, the president expressed high praise for colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
President Tsai stated that Taiwan has long cultivated relations with its diplomatic allies, providing prompt assistance with the infrastructure and public services that they need for the development of medical services, medicines, and more. El Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, for example, told her that when his country has experienced food grain shortages, Taiwan has always been the first to ship rice. Such actions are highly appreciated by our diplomatic allies.
The president mentioned that the countries of Latin America have emerged from the dark days of the past and are now taking steps to achieve national development. Every president, every person who governs a country, wants what is best for his or her country, and hopes someone will help with national development, and that is precisely the area where a good friend like Taiwan intends to provide assistance. The president also encouraged expatriates throughout the US to go to Latin America and seek out investment opportunities. Even if no investments result from a trip to Latin America, one will have at least enjoyed being a tourist.
During this trip, said the president, her delegation learned about the state of industrial development in Taiwan's diplomatic allies, and discovered that the Central American region has immense potential, especially in the textiles sector. The incoming US president has said he wants to get industries to return to the US, and this comes at a time when Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Latin America are pursuing industrial development. What is more, these diplomatic allies have free trade agreements with the US and enjoy other forms of preferential treatment. That is why Chairman Chan Cheng-tien (詹正田) of the Taiwan Textile Federation, who is traveling with the delegation, has stated that he intends to work out a new strategy with respect to the efforts of Taiwan's textile firms to build up an international presence. "Now is the time," said the president, "for us to consider new deployments and new strategies. And we should start with the textiles industry."
President Tsai stated that the conditions facing Taiwan are in a state of flux, and we must act within this state of flux to help domestic firms to identify opportunities. This is everyone's shared responsibility, said the president, who urged everyone to support the government and work with it to project Taiwan's power.
Noting that the new administration came to power over seven months ago, the president pointed out that some people are unsatisfied, and others feel like its performance has been just "okay." Over the past seven months, she said, the government has been working to come with lasting solutions to Taiwan's problems, including such issues as economic transformation, pension reform, and judicial reform. We still have a lot to do, but the most difficult part of any endeavor is getting started. Easy problems, simple problems, solvable problems... these no doubt would have been well within the ability of previous presidents to resolve, said the president, so what is left over are difficult, long-festering, politically sensitive issues. We know that the people elected us to deal with precisely such issues, so if we don't do it, we'll be letting our voters down.
President Tsai stated that this path is a difficult one. It will make lots of people very uncomfortable, and will force a lot of people to venture outside their comfort zones. In the process of venturing outside their comfort zones, many people will complain because they will be facing an uncertain future. And there will be those who feel that the people have already given the ruling party a majority of seats in the Legislative Yuan, so all they need to do now is pass laws as quickly as possible. These people are therefore frustrated with the government, and say it is incompetent. But if our problems were easy to solve, said the president, the previous president would have solved them, for he too had a legislative majority, but he didn't dare take the necessary action.
What we need to do, said the president, is lay a solid foundation for the next generation. We need to convince our own people that if our own generation will do just a little bit more, then the next generation will enjoy better lives. This is the social persuasion that we must undertake to accomplish. The pension system, for example, absolutely must be reformed. We cannot allow the system to go bankrupt, nor can we allow the premium burden borne by the next generation to exceed their ability to pay. We simply must bite the bullet and get this done, but for those whose interests are affected in the process, we must see to it that they are appropriately looked after. This is something that the government must do. "If we can get this pension reform accomplished, I do believe that Taiwan—the Republic of China—is a nation with a future."
President Tsai also mentioned that the government, in focusing on the "5 plus 2" industries, is seeking to give the economy a shot of forward momentum, thereby revitalizing Taiwan's economy and ensuring that it has the strength needed for structural reform. Leading the "5 plus 2" industries is the Asia Silicon Valley initiative, which has an office right here in San Francisco. The president asked those present at the luncheon to support the initiative. She then closed her remarks by telling her listeners that she has confidence in Taiwan, and she will not disappoint them.