Taiwan-U.S. ties will remain strong: new AIT chairman

The new chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) vowed Friday during a visit to Taiwan to further strengthen the already strong ties between the United States and Taiwan.

James Moriarty, who took over as AIT chairman in early October, said relations between the two sides will remain unchanged when asked if there would be any change in the development of bilateral ties after a new president takes office in the U.S. early next year.

Noting Taiwan's economic development and democratization, Moriarty said "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 told CNA in an interview. "There is no debate in America right now about the future of U.S.-Taiwan ties."

He praised Taiwan's economic development, saying that Taiwan's population of only 23 million is smaller than that of the U.S. state of Texas, but Taiwan has still managed to become the U.S.'s ninth largest trading partner.

Moriarty, who is visiting Taiwan for the first time since he took up the new post, also noted cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. in several areas, citing as an example the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF).

Taiwan and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding on the GCTF last year 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 United States, Moriarty also reaffirmed the U.S.'s 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 to become a member.

In response to questions about Taiwan's failure to attend the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly this year due to China's objections, he expressed support for Taiwan's "meaningful participation" in the organization, saying 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 U.S. 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) trade bloc for the Asia-Pacific region, Moriarty noted U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to ensure the passage of the trade deal by the U.S. Congress before he steps down in January.

Moriarty expressed hope that whoever is elected as the next president 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 Congress, he said.

Commenting on the issue of imports of U.S. 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 United Nations body that sets food standards, voted in July 2012 by a 69-67 margin to allow ractopamine residues in pork, beef and turkey.

Soon after the Codex vote, Taiwan formally eased the ban on U.S. beef imports containing traces of ractopamine, which led to the resumption of major trade talks between Taiwan and the U.S.

But the ban of 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 regard to the TPP, he said the focus for the time being is to have the agreement ratified by all 12 founding members.

The 12 founding members are the United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan.

Moriarty, who is on a visit that will last until Saturday, has decades of experience in Asia, including Taiwan, at senior leadership levels in the U.S. government and the private sector, according to the AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.

He has served as U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh and Nepal, special assistant to the president of the United States, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council (NSC) and director for China affairs at the NSC, the AIT said.

Moriarty headed the political section at AIT from 1995 to 1998 and since retiring from the U.S. foreign service in 2011, has worked in the private sector and as an independent consultant, it said.

Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council