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Hawaii leaders meet with Taiwan President Ma

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz meets with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Governor's Office)

MEDIA RELEASE

Lt. Governor Brian Schatz, House Speaker Calvin Say, Senate Vice President Donna Kim, and Sen. Ronald Kouchi met with newly re-elected Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to discuss areas of mutual interest, including tourism, energy and defense.

In December of 2011 President Obama put Taiwan on track to become a “visa waiver” country. Final approval is expected by the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security in the latter part of 2012. After this status is granted, Hawaii officials are optimistic that tourism will increase exponentially.

Since South Korea was granted visa waiver status, Hawaii has seen rapid growth in the Korean tourism market. Schatz also expressed a desire to establish direct flights between Honolulu and Taipei, and Ma and Schatz agreed to work together on issues related to travel and tourism.

Ma’s inauguration address highlighted clean energy as a national priority. To that end, Schatz signed a Memorandum of Understanding today with Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu, establishing a collaboration on clean energy, energy efficiency and green growth. 

Ma also discussed the long-term collaboration in defense, and the critical role that the U.S. Pacific Command on Oahu plays in that relationship. Schatz says the meeting with President Ma was productive and relatively informal.

“We had a great discussion. President Ma has a lot of aloha for Hawaii,” he said. “We agreed to strengthen our existing relationships in terms of tourism, defense and culture, and to work on new areas together, especially clean energy.”

Say said Ma’s vision for Taiwan and his policy priorities – clean energy, a strong defense, supporting local culture, and social justice – are core values for Hawaii as well.

“We have a friend in President Ma, and the relationship between Hawaii and Taiwan has never been stronger,” Say said.

Kim also spoke of the need to more aggressively promote Hawaii in the Asia-Pacific region. “These kinds of visits are critical in order to grow these markets. The potential is there, but it is based on personal relationships – this was a productive first step,” she said.

Kouchi, the vice chairman of the Senate tourism committee, said, “These interactions will bear fruit for Hawaii’s economy. Even though we had a record year for Hawaii tourism in 2011, we can do even better and our efforts in the Asia-Pacific region will enable that to happen.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu signed a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a collaboration on clean energy, energy efficiency and green growth. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Governor's Office)

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