Taiwan's International Role and the GCTF

Kurt Tong
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs
Washington, DC
March 2, 2016


First of all, my thanks go to the Sigur Center for this chance to speak with you about Taiwan’s international role -- and, more specifically, about an innovative mechanism for U.S.-Taiwan cooperation in this arena, the Global Cooperation and Training Framework.

Taiwan’s transition from aid recipient to major aid provider is well known throughout the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. In my role at the State Department, and as a student before that, I have been fortunate enough to travel to Taiwan many times, and every trip reveals new aspects of Taiwan’s history, culture, and society that I have grown to appreciate. Through the years, I have come to realize that the foundation of the U.S.-Taiwan partnership is our shared values—our commitment to democracy, civil liberties, and human rights. The people in Taiwan have built a prosperous, free, and orderly society, with strong institutions worthy of emulation. Taiwan’s evolution into a robust democracy, and a strong free market economy, with a vibrant civil society, make it a model for others. In the United States, we are confident that Taiwan can be a leader on pressing global and regional challenges as they arise in the future.


During my trips to Taiwan, I have been consistently impressed by the spirit of innovation I observed. Taiwan has demonstrated that it has a lot to offer in the way of expertise, capacity, and resources to assist with all kinds of global challenges. This is why we continue our efforts to elevate Taiwan’s international profile and dignity through its contributions to global challenges and the international community.

Through the American Institute in Taiwan, the United States partners with Taiwan authorities and civil society groups to advance and elevate Taiwan’s regional and global leadership on a range of issues, including democracy and human rights, trafficking in persons, youth engagement, aboriginal rights, women’s empowerment, and global health.

Taiwan is a responsible global citizen whose capabilities can have a major impact on the region. Even when Taiwan is barred from international organizations, it often voluntarily adheres to international laws and standards. The United States seeks to support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement, and we promote Taiwan’s meaningful participation in organizations where membership is not possible. Its leadership is of vital importance not only to the United States, but the entire international community, as well.

I know Taiwan’s dynamic and substantive role in APEC very well. But Taiwan’s participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization and World Health Organization has also helped make the world a safer, and healthier place. And there are many more venues where Taiwan’s contributions can make a difference. We will continue to work closely with our counterparts in Taiwan to promote Taiwan’s meaningful participation in additional organizations like Interpol and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We all stand to benefit when Taiwan is included in the international arena.


Before I speak about the GCTF and our future endeavors, I’d like to highlight and commend the contributions Taiwan has already made to the international community. For the last two decades, Taiwan’s international impact has grown significantly, as have opportunities for cooperation with the United States on global initiatives of mutual interest.

Taiwan has been a generous donor to efforts that address global needs. When Secretary of State John Kerry made a global appeal for the international community to provide assistance to West Africa after the Ebola outbreak, Taiwan donated 100,000 sets of personal protective equipment, along with $1 million in cash, to meet the most urgent needs of stricken patients in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Taiwan then established a training center to help equip health workers in the Asia-Pacific region with the tools needed to contain an outbreak of Ebola or other dangerous infectious diseases.

Last year, Taiwan worked together with the United States to provide displaced Iraqi and Syrian families in the Middle East with relief supplies, including solar-powered LED lights, mobile medical units, and pre-fabricated shelters. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Taiwan has partnered with the Pan-American Development Foundation to provide training for disaster resilience and emergency preparedness.

We have worked with Taiwan to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in many international crises. Taiwan authorities and NGOs have provided disaster relief in many locations in recent years, including in Japan, the Philippines, Haiti, the Pacific Islands, and Nepal.

Taiwan has also taken on a leading role in environmental protection. It has a long history of cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and in 2014 we witnessed the launch of the U.S.-Taiwan International Environmental Partnership (IEP). The IEP seeks to train experts from Asia, Africa, and Latin America on how to build environmental protection capacities. Just last week, EPA Assistant Administrator Nishida traveled to Taiwan to further strengthen our cooperation on efforts to combat global climate change.

Finally, we all know Taiwan is a global leader when it comes to high-tech innovations. Last December, we held the first joint Digital Economy Forum in Taipei to explore ways in which the United States and Taiwan can collaborate on high-tech entrepreneurship and education.


We are always looking for innovative ways to facilitate Taiwan’s meaningful contributions to international challenges, and the GCTF is the primary example of such creative thinking. Last June, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) signed an MOU creating the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, or GCTF – a vehicle for the United States to help showcase Taiwan’s strengths and expertise by addressing global and regional concerns.

The idea is simple: the United States and Taiwan conduct training programs for experts from throughout the region to assist them with building their own capacities to tackle issues where Taiwan has proven expertise and advantages. These include, but are not limited to, women’s rights, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, democratization, global health, and energy security.

The GCTF has widespread support from leaders in both the United States and Taiwan. We have already held two successful projects under the framework—a conference on prevention and treatment of Dengue Fever and a training course on combatting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). These efforts attracted more than 200 professionals from 13 countries who traveled to Taiwan to collaborate on these important global health crises.

Now that we have laid a solid foundation for the GCTF, it should continue to evolve to address current needs. Just yesterday, representatives from the United States and Taiwan met to discuss our next set of priorities for the GCTF. We explored pressing regional issues and brainstormed ways in which Taiwan and the United States can cooperate with other countries to combat future challenges in the Asia-Pacific Region and beyond. One of the emerging crises discussed was the Zika virus that is now plaguing much of Central and South America, and may spread to other countries as summer approaches. Four days after the WHO declared the Zika virus a global health emergency, Taiwan took action, donating mosquito abatement equipment to the Latin American region. Back home, the Taiwan authorities established a Zika command center to monitor progression of the virus in the region. This is yet another area of potential cooperation for the United States and Taiwan.

Another focus area discussed at length yesterday was women’s empowerment. We all know Taiwan recently elected its first woman president, but you may not know that Taiwan also elected a record number of women to the legislature, which is now 38% women—the highest in Asia and nearly double the figure for the United States. Taiwan has consistently implemented policies that enhance gender equality and support equal opportunities for all.

Noting Taiwan’s leadership on women’s empowerment, the United States and Taiwan are proud to announce our newest GCTF project, which will be an international women’s empowerment conference taking place on March 11 in Taipei. This conference will bring together government and civil society leaders, primarily from the Asia-Pacific region, to discuss ways that we can promote greater political and economic empowerment for women and create a more inclusive society.


As I wrap up my remarks, I want to emphasize how fortunate we are to have Taiwan’s partnership on this broad array of international issues. We are committed to exploring new ways for Taiwan to earn the dignity and respect that its contributions to global efforts merit. We recognize that Taiwan is highly capable of leading initiatives to address emerging challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

We want Taiwan to embrace a leadership role and to work with us to find innovative ways to ensure appropriate recognition of Taiwan’s contributions. Both Taiwan and the world benefit from Taiwan’s meaningful participation in regional and global discussions.

Expanding Taiwan’s role on the international stage can be challenging, but working together we have made significant progress in recent years. And I am confident that through innovative mechanisms such as the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, we will continue to expand our international cooperation in the future.