News / Asia

Taiwan Hosts Visit of Highest-Level US Envoy in Five Years

U.S. Assistant Commerce Secretary Suresh Kumar. (file photo)
U.S. Assistant Commerce Secretary Suresh Kumar. (file photo)
Ralph Jennings

U.S. Assistant Commerce Secretary Suresh Kumar is visiting Taiwan this week to promote American exports on an island where people have money to spend, despite world economic turmoil.  Kumar is the most-senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in five years -- a public diplomatic boost for the island since China normally condemns Taipei’s ties with the United States.

Suresh Kumar, the U.S. assistant secretary for trade promotion, is visiting Taiwan to advance the National Export Initiative, aimed at doubling American exports in five years and creating some two million American jobs. Taiwan’s economy is forecast to grow five percent this year, improving the Taiwanese ability to purchase American specialties such as beef, wine, travel and higher education.

Last year exports to Taiwan surged 41 percent, to $26 billion. Kumar told a group of some 100 Taiwan-based business people Wednesday that the country is poised to move up a spot to the ninth largest U.S. trading partner in 2011.

“While our trade relations are strong, the opportunities for further growth are immense," said Kumar. "Please let me make this extremely clear -- economic partnership between United States and Taiwan businesses is here to say. Both sides are committed and eager to work together and write new and prosperous chapters in our commercial relationship.”

Kumar’s visit, the highest level one from Washington since Deputy Trade Representative Karan Bhatia came to promote Washington's trade agenda in 2006, shows that the island is still an influential hub for international business and trade, despite the risk of backlash from Beijing.

China has claimed Taiwan as part of its territory since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s. Beijing normally forbids its more than 170 diplomatic allies, including the United States, from making formal contact with the self-ruled island. Officials in Washington hope to avoid harsh words from Beijing as they seek deeper relations with world economic powerhouse.

Kumar met privately on Wednesday with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, as Mr. Ma steps up a campaign for reelection at the polls on January 14. His platform rests partly on proving he can maintain ties with world powers despite opposition from China. Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan, says Kumar’s visit has domestic political implications for President Ma.

“Kumar’s visit is also very meaningful and important for the government of Taiwan because Taiwan has always put high on the agenda inviting and hoping that the United States executive branch officials can visit Taiwan to raise the profile of U.S.-Taiwan relations, especially in this campaign year for the president next January," said Huang. "I think Kumar’s visit will boost the image of sitting President Ma Ying-jeou and also can give the government another round of evidence to show how good the U.S.-Taiwan relationship is.”

President Ma has sought better ties with China by brokering trade talks since taking office in 2008, so officials in Beijing have lashed out less often at the island’s foreign policy.

China did not formally protest the 2006 visit, nor has it publicly objected to Kumar’s trip as he stops in Taiwan en route to trade promotion events in Southeast Asia.

Local media reported Taiwan’s president told Kumar that a market-opening pact that his negotiator signed with Beijing last year could open China to joint Taiwanese-American business ventures.

You May Like

Taiwan President Sounds Warning on Future of China Ties

Current Taiwan government has eased once dangerously tough relations with Beijing since 2008, but next year’s presidential election could change that course More

US Presidential Candidates Woo Hispanic Voters

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton reached out to Hispanic voters this past week in a bid to boost their voter support More

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Documentary is a close-up and personal view of young woman who has become of global symbol of courage and inspiration More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs