As he prepares to leave Taiwan in July after serving for more than three years as de facto United States ambassador, Kin Moy (梅健華) told CNA that he and his family will always remember the kindness and thoughtfulness of local people. Speaking to CNA on Friday, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said he has been moved by the reaction of people here to what AIT is doing to enhance U.S.-Taiwan ties. AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic relations. Since he took office in June, 2015, Moy said he and his family have traveling extensively in Taiwan with exception of the islands of Penghu and Kinmen. Moy has been accompanied by his wife Kathy Chen and their four children during his time in Taipei. He is the first Chinese-American AIT chief while his wife worked as a reporter and editor at the local English-language newspaper The China Post in the 1980s. Their familiarity with Taiwan has played an important role in helping them become more involved in the local cultural scene.
Wherever he has visited, Moy said he is always moved when people approach him to say thank you for what he is doing. “That deeply touches all of us at AIT when we hear words to that effect, because that is essentially what we were trying do at AIT,” Moy said, adding that sharing information about the U.S. they might be unaware of with Taiwanese people is a large part of AIT’s work. During his travels outside Taipei, Moy has also learned much about local customs and people’s lives. “Just to be a part of their lives means a great deal to us, so I think that will be the lasting memory when we go back, that kind of closeness to people that only came about the further we traveled from Taipei,” he noted. Since assuming office, Moy has also actively made use of online social media including AIT’s Facebook page by frequently posting updates on his travels around Taiwan with a humorous touch, boosting AIT’s visibility locally. In three years, the number of followers of AIT’s Facebook page grew from about 30,000 to more than 97,000. An encounter Moy had when hiking in a remote mountainous part of Taiwan offers anecdotal evidence of the enhanced profile of AIT and its director. In his jovial manner, now famous in Taipei’s diplomatic circles, Moy mimicked the way a local woman walking on the same mountain trail pointed her finger at him and tried to remember his name, without success. In the end, they had a good laugh and took a photo together while sharing a moment, he said. “At that point I knew our social media was working pretty well,” he said, adding that such memories will stay with him for a very long time.
This closeness with Taiwanese people has also been replicated with senior government officials Moy has worked with, including top leaders such as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). Moy has worked in the U.S. Foreign Service for over 20 years, including as a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, with responsibility for China, Mongolia and Taiwan. He has also had postings in Beijing and in South Korea. With extensive experience in diplomacy, Moy said Taiwanese people are extremely professional and easy to work with as their approach is full of “thoughtfulness and kindness.” The AIT chief said he could not think of any other posting where he received such access to the president’s office. “President Tsai made it clear that she and her administration want a very collaborative and cooperative relationship, it is not so easy to do that, I can’t imagine that if I worked in Japan I would have that many opportunities to meet with Prime Minister Abe or when I am in Seoul, I don’t think I will be knocking President Moon’s door very often,” he said. The reason Tsai offers such access is because the two sides have cordial relations, have cooperated for decades and the relationship is supported by Taiwanese people. Moy’s position will be filled later this summer by Brent Christensen, a former AIT deputy director and a diplomat with experience in senior positions related to Taiwan and China. Outgoing de facto United States ambassador to Taiwan Kin Moy (梅健華) named the American Institute in Taiwan’s new compound as the No. 1 highlight of his three-year tenure in Taipei, saying it is a concrete symbol of the U.S.’ long-term commitment to Taiwan and that “we are going to be here for a long time.” AIT Director Moy, who is scheduled to leave office in mid-July, told CNA during an interview Friday that the AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan since the end of official bilateral diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Republic of China in 1979. The AIT’s new building, which took nearly a decade to build, touches on many areas of U.S.-Taiwan relations, Moy said. After being in service for nearly 40 years, the current AIT compound in downtown Taipei’s Xinyi Road is not modern enough to reflect the current cordial bilateral relations, Moy said. “We need a new facility. The relationship has matured, evolved at a point we were doing so many things for people of Taiwan and the U. S., we need something to be proud of,” he said. More importantly, the new massive US$250 million compound in Neihu, northern Taipei is a concrete symbol of that commitment to a strong relationship between the two sides, said Moy, who began his tenure in June 2015 and is the first Chinese-American AIT chief. As a director, Moy said, he could talk with the media and say how much the U.S. supported Taiwan. “But those words, over time, fade away, or they seemed kind of empty,” he said. Building the 14,934-square-meter five-story complex is more than words, but a tangible demonstration of U.S. commitment to Taiwan, he said.
“We are going to be here for a long time,” he added. A dedication ceremony for the new de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan was held on June 12, but it will not officially begin operations until early September, according to the AIT. Moy said that the new building can also send a strong message to those who have doubts about U.S. commitment to Taiwan with the changing of administration. While some are suspicious that Taiwan’s interests might be sacrificed as Washington tries to make a deal with Beijing on issues such as bilateral trade and North Korea, Moy said he does not share such worries. “Well what I tell them is I have never sat in a meeting in Washington where people say disparaging things about Taiwan and how we should change our policy or anything like that,” he noted. He said that he and his staff at the AIT represent the American people. “We are doing things here at the AIT that are in the interests of American people,” Moy said. It is in the interests of the American people to support Taiwan’s democratic institutions; to support its rule of law; its openness, its free media, he said. “That’s why over many generations and over many administrations, it has been generally kind of bipartisan. Our policies really don’t change very much when it comes to Taiwan, because we believe that the American people support it,” Moy said. While feeling satisfied with what he had accomplished during his tenure, Moy, however, admitted that there were things he had yet to accomplish over the past three years, among them an expansion of the Taiwan-U.S. collaboration under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF).
Established in June 2015, the GCTF is meant to support bilateral cooperation in international public health, humanitarian assistance and other global issues. Moy praised the program as “a brilliant idea to give Taiwan more exposure in the international community and one that showed the strengths of Taiwan.” He noted the collaboration has seen successful in women’s empowerment and digital economy, among other things. If he were to regret one thing, Moy said he wished the cooperation had been expanded to other areas, including law enforcement. In doing so, the U.S. could help Taiwan’s law enforcement agencies get exposure in the international community to show other law enforcement forces just how excellent, sophisticated, and advanced Taiwan’s crime fighting was, Moy said. Moy said he also regretted not being able to see Taiwan lift its ban on the import of U.S. pork products containing ractopamine — a leanness enhancer. “I do understand there are politics involved. I have been here long enough to understand that this could be a divisive issue,” he said. But he said he also thought that the more people learn about facts on what the U.S. is trying to export to Taiwan, they will come to realize it is in Taiwan’s best interests to open up markets. “Many people from Taiwan visited or studied in U.S. They have actually consumed these products as well, with no real negative effect,” he noted. The U.S. has long criticized Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy in its imports of U.S. meat products and views Taiwan’s ban on ractopamine as a trade barrier. The dispute has complicated trade talks and led to a five-year gap from 2008-2012, during which discussions under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) were suspended. In July 2012, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed amendments to the Food Safety Act, paving the way for imports of U.S. beef containing ractopamine. The TIFA talks subsequently resumed in March 2013 in Taipei. Since then, the U.S. has been pushing for Taiwan to accept a maximum residue level for U.S. pork containing ractopamine. Moy’s position will be filled this summer by Brent Christensen, a former AIT deputy director and a diplomat who has held senior positions related to Taiwan and China.