Washington — More than 80 Taiwanese companies brought their wares to Washington this week in a bid to connect the democratically governed island with the nation widely viewed as its strongest backer.
Taiwan Expo USA, the island republic’s first such show in the United States, was held over three days in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in downtown Washington, close to the White House.
Organizers that included Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs were proud to point out that in 2021, Taiwan rose to become the eighth-largest trading partner of the United States, outranking both India and Vietnam. On a global scale, Taiwan became the 16th-largest trading economy that same year.
Visitors to the expo were greeted with an array of high-tech products including 5G and metaverse applications, advanced batteries for electric vehicles, and compound semiconductors — 65% of which are made in Taiwan. Traditional cultural items, such as drums used in Buddhist and Taoist temple processions, were also on display.
“We brought the best of technology [and] culture here in hopes that our dear American friends will feel even closer affinity with Taiwan,” James Huang, chairman of Taiwan External Trade Development Council, told VOA at the expo.
Marisa Lago, the U.S. under secretary of commerce for international trade, told audiences gathered for the opening ceremony Wednesday that the U.S. administration led by President Joe Biden is “laser focused” on broadening and deepening its partnership with Taiwan.
Some U.S. lawmakers believe the Biden administration could do more to bolster Taiwan’s geostrategic position in the face of seemingly constant and increasingly belligerent threats from Beijing.
Representative Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky, was among dozens of U.S. lawmakers who have traveled to Taiwan this year to show support in the face of increased Chinese military activities in and above the Taiwan Strait.
“What the [Chinese Communist Party] needs to understand is that the more belligerent their military activities are, the more provocative their exercises are, the more threats they make, the more committed and determined the United States becomes to defend the island of Taiwan,” Barr told VOA this week.
Speaking of the discussions he and his congressional colleagues held with President Tsai Ing-wen and legislators in Taipei, Barr said, “We’re committed not only to our security relationship but also to our bilateral trade relationship.”
Barr underscored the importance that Taiwan be included in a U.S.-led multilateral trade initiative.
“We need to urge the Biden administration to rethink its exclusion of Taiwan from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. It’s very important that Taiwan be included in that, to send a signal to Beijing that our multilateral trade commitment to the Indo-Pacific includes Taiwan, in addition to pursuing a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan,” he said.
Overall, Barr said, U.S. lawmakers and Taiwanese officials “reaffirmed our strong commitment to our two democratic societies, that we stand shoulder to shoulder in defiance of communist aggression.”
By strengthening its ties with Taiwan, the U.S. serves the interest of international peace and prosperity, said Taiwan Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua, speaking to an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies ahead of this week’s expo.
“The waters surrounding Taiwan are home to the busiest shipping lane in the world,” she said. “This area is densely filled with cargo ships and cruisers. China, Japan, South Korea and many other countries all depend on the shipping lanes to deliver their goods to the world, and vice versa.”
Wang noted that Taiwan’s sends 32% of its total exports to China, down from as much as 80% a decade ago. She attributed the change to “growing uncertainty of China’s political and economic environment” as well as changes in the global environment. Taiwan’s investment in both the United States and other countries in Asia has grown significantly, she added.
The ambassadors of Palau and the Marshall Islands were among the VIPs who attended the expo. The two Pacific Island nations are among the dozen or so nations that recognize Taiwan diplomatically.
“Our relationship with Taiwan is rock solid,” Hersey Kyota, Palau’s ambassador to the U.S., told VOA.
Gerald Zackios, the top diplomat from the Marshall Islands, said his country values its relationship with Taiwan.
“We value our shared democratic principles, human rights,” he said, as well as economic development and a people-to-people relationship with Taiwan.