President Tsai attends 2016 Annual Conference on Southeast Asian Studies in Taiwan

On the morning of September 22, 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen attended 2016 Annual Conference on Southeast Asian Studies in Taiwan. She explained the principles and strategies of the government's New Southbound Policy, stressing that Taiwan will focus on building links with the nations of Southeast and South Asia.

A transcript of President Tsai's remarks follows:

Your Excellency Ambassador Kasit Piromya, AIT Director Kin Moy, Honorable Representatives from Southeast Asian countries, President Edward Chow (???) of National Chengchi University, distinguished professors, dear guests, ladies and gentlemen:

First, I have the pleasure of welcoming former Foreign Minister of Thailand Ambassador Piromya, and the many eminent scholars and leaders from Southeast Asia who have joined us today.

I would also like to congratulate the National Chengchi University on today's event. This is the 18th Annual Conference on Southeast Asian Studies, and will surely be another successful meeting of great minds.

The theme that brings us together this year is The Politics of Transformation in Southeast Asia: Towards A People-Centered Agenda. The word Transformation is indeed a keyword when we speak of this region.

I. A Region in Transformation

Over the past centuries, countries in Southeast Asia have transformed in major ways. Many have become sovereign states, multi-cultural societies, and free-market economies that are growing fast.

Regional integration is moving forward and raising the profile and competitiveness of Southeast Asia � and Asia as a whole. ASEAN has declared that it will build a community that is politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible, and people-centered.

These transformations add up to a region that is gaining enormous influence in the world � politically, economically, and culturally. It seems like the whole world is rebalancing to Asia.

II. Taiwan's Role in Asia's Development

Taiwan must respond to these changes. Not only do we sit at the geographical heart of Asia, at the meeting point of Northeast and Southeast, we are also deeply connected to the countries of this region.

Challenges that confront the region confront Taiwan as well. These challenges include: to consolidate freedom and democracy; to make our economies more competitive and innovative, but at the same time more sustainable and inclusive; and to resolve disputes through dialogue so that peace can prevail.

These changes and challenges require that Taiwan redefine its role in Asia's development, so that we can advance the interest of our country and also that of the region as a whole. That is the impetus behind our New Southbound Policy.

III. The New Southbound Policy

The New Southbound Policy is qualitatively different from past southbound policies. Past policies gave priority to business interests, via traditional modes of trade and investment.

In contrast, the New Southbound Policy of ours focuses on building wide-ranging links with the nations of Southeast and South Asia, to create mutual benefits.

We are forging more comprehensive links that go beyond economies and trade, to cut across science, technology, culture, tourism, education and other people-to-people interactions, with the nations of Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

At the same time, we will also build mechanisms for wide-ranging dialogue to foster consensus on cooperation and reduce barriers.

What we hope to achieve, ultimately, are abundant mutual benefits, win-win situations, and stronger mutual trust and a sense of community in the region.

Building on existing foundations, we will be firm and unwavering in purpose, settle in for the long haul, and cultivate mutually-beneficial relationships with the nations of Southeast and South Asia.

At this stage, we will make full use of Taiwan's strengths to set up cooperation with relevant nations, around strategic areas including: talent cultivation via the twin tracks of academia and industry; agricultural development; and new energy.

We also hope to leverage Taiwan's broad experience in medical care, education, technology development, agricultural cooperation, and SMEs, as we expand both bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the nations of ASEAN and South Asia.

Last month, we published the guidelines for the New Southbound Policy that lay out our principles and strategies in detail. These will shape the direction of our policies and actions, aggregate resources, and generate the support of our private sector.

We invite you to examine the guidelines and share your feedback. But there is one element that I want to highlight, and it also the core theme of this conference that is, a people-centered agenda.

IV. A People-Centered Agenda

No policy can succeed unless there are people who are equipped to carry it out. We will aggressively promote policies and programs that expand the flow of talented people between Taiwan and the rest of Asia, and help them secure opportunities to grow their abilities.

To give you some examples: We are simplifying visa application for a number of ASEAN countries, by creating a one-stop online service that is fast, easy and convenient. This is only a start.

Our Ministry of Education also announced NT$1 billion to fund some great opportunities. Among other things, the money will enable second-generation immigrants in Taiwan to visit the countries of their parents, and learn the languages.

It will support more than 12,000 young Taiwanese to volunteer, work and study in Southeast Asia, and also expand scholarship programs for young people from Southeast Asia to come and study in Taiwan.

We hope to increase the number of Southeast Asian and South Asian students in Taiwan by 20% per year, to reach almost 60,000 by 2019. What's more: after they complete their studies, we will help them find jobs so they can further sharpen their skills.

These young people will be incredible resources for the entire region, not just Taiwan. We firmly believe that by putting the focus on people, we can create true win-win value for all.


Finally, I want to once again thank the NCCU and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. I expect that the two days will not just prove valuable for exchanging views, but will also yield concrete suggestions for the New Southbound Policy, and I look forward to seeing these.

As vital members of the Asia-Pacific, we have a joint obligation to shape this region in ways that further peace, stability, and the prosperity of our countries. The possibilities before us are truly exciting. Let us work together to fulfill them.

Thank you all.

Source: Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)