AmCham’s “Underground Ambassador” recalls the crisis of 1979

AmCham Taipei held a special luncheon on April 18 at the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, to reflect on the important role it played in contributing to the drafting of the Taiwan Relations Act 40 years ago.

We were honored to have former Chairman Robert Parker (office title then President) back to reminisce about the events following the U.S. decision to sever ties with Taiwan. He showed video clips of his testimony before U.S. Congressional committees in February 1979 that stressed the need to strengthen the draft legislation prepared by the Carter administration to govern future U.S. Taiwan relations. AmCham urged that the bill include U.S. support for Taiwan’s security and establish a clear legal foundation for interaction between the two governments.

Watch more clippings of Parker’s testimony: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

In addition, AmCham at that time stepped forward to ensure that various U.S. community institutions, including the Taipei American School, American Club, English-language radio station, and youth organizations could continue to operate smoothly after derecognition. It’s a period the Chamber looks back on with pride, and one of the prime examples of how the organization works for the best interests of both the U.S. and Taiwan.

Robert Parker was welcomed by AmCham President William Foreman, former Presidents, Taiwan Business TOPICS Editor-in-chief Don Shapiro, and members of the Chamber.

North Korea’s Market May Open Up, Expert Says  

Taiwanese businesses are among many that are making preparations to enter North Korea if a nuclear deal is successful and the nation opens up its market, an expert on North Korea said at an AmCham Taipei briefing held at the Chamber’s Lincoln Room on July 23.

Before the United States and others imposed strict sanctions on North Korea in recent years, Taiwanese companies were doing business with the country. They were mostly exporting chemicals, textiles, and machinery, while importing minerals, metals, and other raw materials. “Taiwan has good healthy [business] relations with the North,” said Seong-hyon Lee, Director of Unification Strategy Studies at the Sejong Institute, a think tank outside of Seoul. “They want to be ready for when the North Korean market opens up. When it does, they’ll rush in.”

Some critics of the recent U.S.-North Korea talks believe that the negotiations will fall apart eventually like they have many times before. But Lee is optimistic about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s latest peace offensive, saying Pyongyang will opt for denuclearization if it is more lucrative than going nuclear.

“Kim is 34. He’ll be around for the next 50 years or more. However, he doesn’t want to rule an impoverished nuclear country for the next 50 years,” Lee said.

From left to right: Seong-hyon Lee, Director of Unification Strategy Studies at the Sejong Institute and AmCham Taipei President William Foreman

At last month’s summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore, the U.S. leader tempted Kim with images of what North Korea’s economic development could look like if it gave up its nuclear weapons. “They have great beaches,” Trump said to reporters shortly after the summit. “You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?’”

It may be highly unlikely that North Korea will open to such an extent in the near future. In addition, anyone dealing with North Korea at this point risks violating international sanctions and facing ethical questions about doing business with a dictatorship that ignores human rights.

Although Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, President Tsai Ing-wen’s government has complied with the punitive U.N. measures against Pyongyang – a move that has drawn praise from the United States, Taiwan’s most valued friend.

Before the sanctions were tightened, Taiwan imported US$12.2 million in goods from North Korea in 2016, making Taiwan the country’s fourth largest trading partner.

Taiwan will continue to obey the sanctions, said Fang Wu-wan, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade. “We currently stand by this commitment,” she said. “How we proceed in the future depends on the international climate.”

Despite the current restrictions, some of the most prominent multinational companies are waiting for an opportunity to enter East Asia’s last undeveloped market. “It’s a world of business,” Lee said. “Even if North Korea is a bad guy, they’re looking for an opportunity if they can make money.”

The Lincoln Room is made possible by the generosity of a number of sponsoring companies:

CPTPP: The Challenges for Taiwan

Following the U.S. withdrawal from the embryonic Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President, the other 11 TPP countries decided to maintain the multilateral trade agreement under the revised name of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

As a major trading economy, Taiwan hopes to be able to join the CPTPP when the pact is formally established and opens membership to more countries in a second round. Currently the CPTPP signatories are still in the process of seeking ratification from their various parliaments.

Da-Nien Liu, research fellow at the Regional Development Study Center of the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER) and an expert on regional trade agreements, shared his insights on “The CPTPP: The Challenges for Taiwan” with AmCham Taipei members and guests on May 24 at the  Chamber’s Lincoln Room.  Liu is also a former Deputy Secretary General of the National Security Council during the Ma Ying-jeou administration.

Liu noted that Taiwan will feel an economic impact from CPTPP whether or not it is able to participate in the agreement. If allowed to secure membership, Taiwan will need to liberalize its import regime, which would likely affect the domestic agricultural sector and certain industries. If Taiwan is excluded from CPTPP, the impact would be even greater, affecting the country’s markets in such sectors as plastics, iron and steel (and their products), electrochemical equipment, and auto parts.

The “China Factor” will be a major challenge for Taiwan, Liu said, as Beijing may try to pressure CPTPP members not to admit Taiwan or to block Taiwan’s accession until after China joins the group. Another prospective challenge might be the “down-payment” problem, as CPTPP member countries would likely expect Taiwan to resolve any outstanding trade disputes with them during bilateral talks preceding Taiwan’s entry into the agreement.

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Special Event – Countdown to the US Election

For those expecting fireworks, the AmCham’s Special Luncheon, “Countdown to the 2016 US Presidential Election,” on Oct 19, might have been a disappointment. Rather than political discord, attendees were instead treated to reasoned analysis of the U.S. presidential campaign and its possible ramifications on U.S. policy toward Asia by two keen observers of U.S. politics and Asia policy: William A. Stanton, Founding Director, the Center for Asia Policy (CAP), National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan and former AIT Director; and Ross Feingold, Senior Adviser at DC International Advisory.

Moderated by Paul Cassingham, Senior Legal Consultant at Eiger as well as a former AmCham Chairman and current Government Relations Committee Chair, the luncheon featured 15-minute presentations by each of the speakers, followed by Q&A and open discussion.


William A. Stanton, Founding Director, the Center for Asia Policy (CAP), National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan and former AIT Director, presents his analysis of the US election’s potential impact in Asia.

Stanton’s presentation, The U.S. Presidential Election and What it Means for Asia, focused on four key areas:

  • U.S. Policy toward China
  • U.S. Policy towards Taiwan
  • the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • and the South China Sea

He noted that both of the candidates talked tough on China, with Trump’s criticisms primarily economic while Clinton’s were more broadly aimed at China’s poor human rights record, its growing military might, accusations that China is wielding an army of cyber-attackers aimed at the United States, and its lack of democracy.


Ross Feingold, Senior Adviser at DC International Advisory, presented a broader overview of the election process up to this point.

Feingold, who identified himself as a Republican who does not support Trump, focused more broadly on the bruising primary and presidential campaigns and how each candidate has fared. He noted that while recent email leaks and other public relations disasters have resulted in low public approval for Clinton, Trump’s approval ratings are in the basement, resulting in a distinct advantage for Clinton. Feingold also said that the Democratic Party’s platform remains focused on the “One-China” policy, while the Republican Party platform is more detailed and more supportive of Taiwan.

Participants joined in a lively discussion over what the election might mean for Taiwan, including the chances of the TPP being passed under either candidate. Stanton and Feingold concurred that although both candidates expressed disapproval for the TPP, Clinton would more likely re-open negotiations for the Pacific-wide trade agreement. Regarding another issue of concern for U.S. expats in Taiwan, Clinton has expressed support for the FATCA exemption on bank reporting. The Trump campaign has said nothing on this matter.

Taiwan to Join U.S. Global Entry Program

Taiwan enters Us Global Entry Program (Photo:Wikipedia)

The ease and convenience of the 2012 U.S. visa waiver program offered to Taiwanese visitors to the United States propelled visits by some 50%. In the near future, travel for approved Taiwanese visitors will be even easier and more convenient with the inclusion of Taiwan into the U.S. Global Entry program.

On April 4, Joseph Donovan Jr., managing director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), and Shen Lyushun, head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, signed an agreement that lays the groundwork for Taiwan to enter into the Global Entry program. While the details have not been finalized, the agreement sets Taiwan on a course for being only the eighth country in the world, and the second in Asia, to provide its citizens with the opportunity to use the Global Entry program.

Global Entry allows pre-approved visitors to skip the long lines at immigration by going to a special kiosk that will scan their passports and fingerprints automatically, allowing them speedy entry into the United States. The program is aimed at low-risk, frequent travelers who have undergone extensive background checks and in-person interviews.

The offer of Global Entry is being reciprocated by Taiwan, which will allow pre-approved U.S. visitors to Taiwan the opportunity to use Taiwan’s E-Gate program, likewise enabling them to avoid the long lines at Taiwan immigration.

Both programs reflect flourishing ties between the two countries, with trade, travel, and research cooperation all growing in recent years. U.S. visitors are now the fifth largest cohort to Taiwan, the only non-Asian country in the top-10.