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U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Remarks in Taipei, Nov. 10, 1998

November 10, 1998

Remarks By U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson 22nd Annual Joint Conference of the US-ROC and the ROC-US Economic Councils November 10, 1998 Taipei, Taiwan (as Prepared for Delivery)

Good afternoon. Thank you, Sen. Rockefeller and Murkowski, for your introductions. I am delighted to be here in Taipei.

This is my fourth trip to Taiwan. I have visited here as a member of Congress. Today it is an honor for me to represent the people of the United States and the Clinton Administration as Secretary of Energy.

It is also an honor to be able to reaffirm the importance which the United States attaches to this annual conference: For 22 years senior ranking members of the Government of the United States have attended this conference. I am glad to participate this year, along with Sens. Rockefeller, Murkowski and Torricelli and Congressman Sessions.

But it is a special distinction to be seated with President Lee Teng-hui. Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership and vision in these challenging economic times.

The significance this conference has gained over the years can be traced to the discussions of critical topics of common commercial interest that have taken place here.

Here, our representatives and officials of companies doing business in Taiwan can explore strategies and opportunities to accomplish our mutual aspiration to further advance our commercial and trade opportunities.

Here, we lay on the table the issues that we must address so that we can resolve them in a spirit of understanding and mutual trust.

Here, we look forward to ways that we can continue our excellent bilateral relationship that has resulted in $50 billion in trade and has made the United States the second largest investor in Taiwan.

Given the international economic situation, this conference is very timely. Many economies in this region have been weakened or may yet be weakened by the global financial crisis. All of us are affected by pressures on the world's financial system, and the problem is not resolved yet.

But, as you know, President Clinton secured from Congress his request for $18 billion to help the International Monetary Fund restore currency stability and promote economic recovery.

It is important to note that the current global financial problems demonstrate the need for economies to develop with real transparency; for real competition not to be suppressed; for governments to intervene less; and for governments not to spend beyond their means. Taiwan is an example of such an economy.

Equally important for this region, however, is Japan's economic revitalization. Every Asian economy has seen its exports to Japan drop this year. The longer this trend continues the more serious the region's economic problems will become.

The lessons that the current crisis manifests for us are clear: We must encourage markets free of excessive regulation and protection. We must conduct our business in an open, honest and transparent manner. We must strengthen competition. We must reduce barriers. We must not rely on restrictive trade policies that, history has shown, stifle growth. The United States, of course, will enforce our laws against unfair foreign export practices. But we remember the lessons of the 1930s and we will refuse to panic and shut off trade ourselves.

Over the last 50 years, the principal way freer trade has been encouraged has been the multilateral trading system. Expanded world trade has helped boost prosperity around the world. But nearly two billion people remain outside the World Trade Organization. The crucial task now is their integration into the system, including the 22 million people of Taiwan.

U.S. and Taiwan negotiators have been working tirelessly to resolve our differences on Taiwan's entry into the WTO. I am happy to report to you that last February and most recently at a session late last month in Washington, D.C., significant progress was made in resolving the bilateral and multilateral issues between the U.S. and Taiwan.

This is good news, not just for our two economies, but for the world trading system as a whole. Our position is clear: the United States supports Taiwan's entry into the WTO, and Taiwan's entry should be considered on its own merits.

Taiwan's entry makes perfect sense because it is moving to a freer economy. You moved in the right direction, ten years ago, when you joined the worldwide march of democracy and recognized that the quickening pace of the globalization of the world's economy required a new Taiwan. You realized that only with a genuine free market could you move into the mainstream of global economic development.

The people of Taiwan have embraced the opportunities of democracy and free markets and responded with their renowned industriousness and enthusiasm.

As a result, amid the difficulties that this region faces, Taiwan will continue its commitment to democracy when it holds the December elections for the Legislature and city mayors. Taiwan's projected growth of five percent for this year, despite the worldwide downturn, demonstrates the vitality of the Taiwan economy. Taiwan stands as a bright shining light upon a hill. It is a tribute to your active commitment to the principles of democracy and free markets.

Demonstrating your commitment to free market principles, you have begun to open up the electricity industry in Taiwan to privatization. If the people of Taiwan can receive their electricity from a number of potential providers, who under a competitive structure will react to market pressures by becoming more efficient in generating cleaner energy, Taiwan will have gained great economic and environmental benefits.

In opening up the electricity industry to competition, you are moving in perfect sync with the forces of free markets that have fostered your current prosperity.

In the United States, we are involved in the same debate. We are engaged in a discussion about how to restructure our entire domestic electricity industry. The discussion includes sweeping away regulatory barriers that could then present vast opportunities for expanded economic development.

Sen. Murkowski is an expert in restructuring and is an important voice in the U.S. Senate. I am glad to see that tomorrow he will be leading the conference session on electricity restructuring in Taiwan.

We support Taiwan's efforts to restructure its energy sector and to diversify its energy mix through greater use of nuclear, natural gas and alternative energy sources and to diversify its oil import mix through the use of Alaskan ANS crude oil.

Our common interests extend to the issue of the environment. Environmental concerns are globally important, for if the climate changes chaotically, all other interests will pale.

To this end, the current negotiations in APEC to eliminate the barriers to trade in environmental goods and services and the initiative on energy need to be supported because they can help this region monitor, clean up and prevent pollution.

Because we are friends, we can discuss topics in which we have common or differing perspectives with the full knowledge and confidence that our approach to economic development and the prosperity of our peoples has been validated by history. All we have to do is look around us to see why this is a wise course of action.

If we continue on our road, we can influence others to move in the right direction: democracy, free trade and free markets. We can see that other countries lacking in trust and vision are struggling to move forward because too much of the old thinking still remains.

Instead of looking at the past for answers or using old responses to our problems, Taiwan and the United States are looking forward to continuing our broad and close relationship.

Evidence of the sturdiness of our relationship can be found in our clear-headed understanding that faith in free markets generates the spirit that will allow us to move together into a new era of prosperity, democracy and progress.

The people of Taiwan and the United States have come a long way during the past 50 years. We cannot avoid the stark reality of facts that have presented themselves during this time of global and political rearrangement. But change by itself will not chisel away at the strong bonds that exist between us.

Even with the adjustments in the post-Cold War period, old friends will remain friends; security commitments will remain firm; co-operation and trust will grow; and our economic and commercial interests will flourish.

The American Congress, President Clinton and the American people have all reaffirmed our common commitment to our relationship with the people of Taiwan.

Thank you very much.