Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou will be inaugurated for the second and final time on Sunday, May 20th. In addition to its continued democratic development, Taiwan has undergone numerous unprecedented economic, travel and tourism changes--between itself and mainland China--since President Ma first took office four years ago.
In July 2008, just over two months after taking office, President Ma launched the first regularized direct flights across the Taiwan Strait since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Such flights now number 558 per week, having greatly eased the burdens of Taiwanese living and working in mainland China. It's also made life much easier for American tourists and businesspeople crossing the Strait instead of having to change planes in Hong Kong, or another third party port, as they once did.
And in 2010, Taiwan enacted its Economic and Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China that zeroed out tariffs on a number of Taiwan exports to the mainland. Further ECFA liberalizations will follow. ECFA's allowed Taiwan companies to tap mainland consumer markets while allowing them to stay in Taiwan and trade from their own home base. ECFA's further offered Taiwanese greater consumer choice at more affordable prices, while additionally uncovering opportunities for U.S. companies that have operations on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. It's thus no wonder the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei has, after years of calling for such changes, wholeheartedly applauded President Ma's economic openings. Slowly but surely, Taiwan's steadily reinserting itself into the global economic supply chain, strongly making its case for a resumption of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks with the United States.
The influx of mainland Chinese tourists to Taiwan, allowed since 2008, has boosted the island's economy while also exposing mainlanders to Taiwan's free society and vibrant democracy. This fact was most notable during Taiwan's January 14th presidential and legislative elections won by President Ma and his Kuomintang (KMT) Chinese party. Visiting mainlanders were mesmerized by Taiwan's televised debates and dueling public events, and their some of their cohorts back home even took to blogging about it. Last year, 1.8 million mainland Chinese tourists visited Taiwan. That's 30% of all 6.08 million tourists who visited Taiwan in 2011.
On this, his second inauguration, I ask my colleagues to not only congratulate President Ma on his inauguration, but also on his openings to mainland China that have not just benefited Taiwan companies and consumers, but also U.S. economic interests and enterprises in the region.