Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen welcomed Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican, to Taipei on Monday. She spoke to him about the importance of partnering with democracies to ensure reliable supplies of semiconductors, or “democracy chips.” She said that China’s threats mean that democracies have to cooperate with each other on trade agreements.
August has been a busy month for Taiwan’s president as far as visiting American delegations go. Holcomb’s delegation makes the third one this month. The first was Nancy Pelosi’s headline-making visit with an all-Democrat delegation. She asked Rep. Michael McCaul, ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to join the group but he had a previous commitment. The second delegation was led by progressive Democrat Senator Ed Markey. It was a small delegation of only three other Democrat senators and one Republican, Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a delegate from American Samoa. Holcomb is the first governor to visit Taiwan since 2019 when Idaho Governor Brad Little, a Republican, visited.
Holcomb was careful not to comment on Taipei’s frictions with China or China’s live-fire military drills launched in response to Pelosi’s visit. He is there to talk about trade ties between Taiwan and Indiana. Tsai stressed the importance of Taiwan’s economic security. “Economic security is an important pillar of national and regional security,” she said. “Taiwan is willing and able to strengthen cooperation with democratic partners and build sustainable supply chains for ‘democracy chips.’ ”
“It’s a timeless truth that who you partner with matters,” the Republican told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during their meeting. The people of Indiana and Taiwan “share so many common values, interests and goals,” he added.
Mr. Holcomb signed a memorandum of understanding on economic cooperation with Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taipei on Monday. Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc., one of the world’s largest chip makers, unveiled plans in June to build its first Midwestern semiconductor design center in West Lafayette, Ind.
Mr. Holcomb is also scheduled to meet with representatives from Taiwanese semiconductor companies during his four-day stay in Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry.
The U.S. Trade Representative said last week that it planned to start negotiations with Taipei on a bilateral trade and investment initiative this fall to deepen ties in areas including technology and agriculture.
Holcomb’s visit is described as an economic development trip in Taiwan and the Republic of Korea. The delegation will meet with Taiwanese and South Korean government officials, business leaders and academic institutions to further strengthen Indiana’s economic, academic and cultural connections with Taiwan and South Korea, according to the state website. .
“I couldn’t be more energized to spend this week building new relationships, reinforcing long time ones and strengthening key sector partnerships with Taiwan and South Korea,” said Gov. Holcomb. “This week marks my second trip to South Korea as Governor, and I am also proud to be the first U.S. governor to visit Taiwan since before the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m committed to building an economy of the future with these global partners who are helping propel Indiana forward by creating tomorrow’s businesses, today.”
The trip to Taiwan comes on the heels of two recent semiconductor industry announcements in Indiana including Taiwan-based MediaTek, as well as the recent signing of the federal CHIPS Act, placing a focus on strengthening Indiana’s technology microelectronics ecosystem. The delegation will focus on strengthening Indiana’s economic and academic partnerships and reinforcing the state’s commitment to innovation, as well as committing to working together to build the economy of the future on an international scale.
“The unprecedented economic progress Indiana has secured this year doesn’t happen without like-minded partners here and around the world,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers. “A shared commitment to innovation and collaboration is key to continuing our success, and I’m thrilled to spend the week strengthening that collaboration with our friends in Taiwan and South Korea.”
A Japanese delegation will meet with Tsai on Tuesday. It is led by Keiji Furuya, a former cabinet member and longtime conservative lawmaker. He is resuming his regular visits that are no longer suspended due to the pandemic. He explained that it is important to protect the security of the Taiwan Strait. They don’t want to provoke China.
The Japanese group, which is set to meet with Ms. Tsai on Tuesday, includes Minoru Kihara, who served as an aide to the late Shinzo Abe when Mr. Abe was prime minister. Ryo Shinoda, a secretary to Mr. Kihara, said the visit wasn’t meant to provoke China.
“We don’t want an escalation, but we don’t think we need to stop doing what we do every year,” said Mr. Shinoda.
The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal makes a good point in an op-ed. It’s nice for Democrats to finally show some support for Taiwan over China but they need to show it’s more than photo-ops. Let’s face it, that is all Pelosi’s trip was. She wanted to poke China and have a last grand trip to Asia before she is retired as Speaker in November. Democrats need to help Taipei and the region resist Chinese hegemony now.
If the Americans want to show the trips were more than photo-ops, they’ll return from the Congressional recess with a resolve to do much more to help Taipei and the region resist Chinese hegemony.
Democrats are happy to denounce China from afar for mistreating the Uighurs and the eclipse of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The trips to Taiwan are useful demonstrations of American support. But are the Members willing to spend real political capital at home to support Taiwan and send a message to China in ways that would really matter?
That means agreeing to spend more on U.S. defenses to credibly deter China. The need is urgent, as China invests in naval power and long-range missiles that could neutralize America’s carrier battle groups. Yet the Biden Administration wants to shrink the Navy in the near term when China might see a window of opportunity to invade Taiwan. Democrats who defy China by visiting Taipei have an obligation to help defend the island.
The other priority is re-engaging with the Asia Pacific on trade. The Biden Administration is beginning trade talks with Taiwan at long last, which is welcome. But an obstacle to success is the perception that Democrats in Congress and their labor allies will oppose any deal the Administration strikes with countries in the Pacific region. Mrs. Pelosi has done nothing to disabuse that perception as she refuses to advance new trade promotion authority in Congress.
The Biden administration announced its new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework with a dozen other nations in May. It contains no new market access, though, and it doesn’t make a priority of digital trade. The Biden administration is too beholden to labor unions and fellow Democrats in Congress to robustly promote free trade and new markets. If Democrats are truly supportive of Taiwan, they’ll come back from recess and do as the Wall Street Journal editorial board suggests – Put some military and economic muscle behind your show of moral support. Otherwise, it’s just words.