The US-Taiwan Business Council is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the trade and business relationship between the United States and Taiwan.
The organization serves its members as a portal to Taiwan, and aspires to be an effective representative for those members in dealing with business, trade, and investment matters.
Members consist of public and private companies with business interests in Taiwan, and range in size from one-person consulting firms to large multinational corporations. Our network of relationships is dedicated towards giving our members access to the people and the information that they need to succeed.
The Council was formed in 1976 by David M. Kennedy, who had been Secretary of Treasury for two years under President Nixon, and then Ambassador to NATO. At that time the US had full diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and only a Liaison Office in Beijing. Kennedy had been impressed in his visits to Taiwan with their economic development and felt that a private business council, with a counterpart organization in Taiwan, could do a lot to continue to promote economic development. He also foresaw that when the time came that US diplomatic recognition would switch to the Peoples Republic of China in Beijing, a private business council would probably play an even more important role in US-Taiwan relations.
The driving force on the Taiwan side to form a partnership Council there came from Y.S. Sun, then Minister of Economic Affairs, who later became the Premier.
Kennedy was the founder of the US Council and remained as Chairman for 14 years until his retirement at the end of 1990. Kennedy did not want the Council in Washington, D.C. because: 1) "its liable to get too political"; 2) "you dont understand this country unless you get outside the beltway"; and 3) ""I live in Chicago and I want it here." The Council was legally created in the offices of Baker & McKenzie in Chicago and most of its founding members were Chicago area companies. It grew rapidly, however, with members joining from all around the country. Bechtel, Amoco Chemicals, Oak Industries and Blaw-Knox Foundry and Mill Machinery, Inc. were particularly active companies in the beginning.
The Council felt an annual forum was needed to showcase the Council and the business opportunities that existed between the two countries. The first Annual Conference was held in Chicago, October 1977. Taiwan had just become the United States 8th largest trading partner and this issue highlighted the conference agenda, which focused on transportation, and banking and finance.
By 1978, it had been decided that the Council would hold a conference in Taipei jointly with the counterpart ROC organization and this was held in Marchand focused on the opportunities in Taiwan for US Companies. The ROC government was interested in increasing its commercial relationship with the US at a time when the Peoples Republic of China was rapidly improving relations with the US After the conference, the two Councils put together a trade mission to the US that resulted in $400 million in new business for US companies.
The following two years were dominated by the hearings, drafting and passing of the Taiwan Relations Act (of April 1979). The Council was heavily involved in all aspects of the legislation, and it was the subject of much discussion at the Los Angeles Conference in June of 1979 and the Conference in Taipei in late May of 1980.
In 1981, T.K. Chang, the Chairman of the ROC-USA Economic Council died, and was replaced by C.F. Koo, then Chairman of China Trust Bank, Chairman of Taiwan Cement, one of Taiwans four or five billionaires, a member of the Kuomintang Central Standing Committee, and a highly respected business leader and statesman. C.F. Koo remained Chairman of the ROC Council for 12 years until he stepped down in May of 1993 and was succeeded by his nephew, Dr. Jeffrey L.S. Koo, Chairman of Chinatrust Commercial Bank.
From 1981 through 1989, the Council focused intensely on developing strong business relations between the US and Taiwan to make up for the lack of formal diplomatic relations. The Conferences were useful in promoting the involvement of many US states and their trade organizations and in promoting procurement missions from Taiwan in agriculture, machinery, environmental and health sectors, and in focusing on investment and banking and financial issues. Former President Ford was the speaker at the Hawaii Conference in the fall of 1989.
In October 1990, David Laux became President of the Council, replacing William Morell, and in December of 1990, Caspar Weinberger succeeded David Kennedy, who had served for 14 years, as Chairman.
The new leadership made several changes, including moving the Council to Washington, D.C. where it would have better access to information, to US government officials, and to VIP visitors from Taiwan. The new leadership team resolved to make the Council more active in terms of services, seminars, and lunches and dinners for members with visitors from Taiwan, and to try to improve the Councils finances.
The move to Washington D.C. was made in April 1991, were the Council was housed in Rogers & Wells at 1737 H Street, NW, where Cap Weinberger was "of counsel". The Council remained there until July 1992, when it moved to independent quarters at 815 Conn. Ave., NW. That move was made largely because of the concerns of other law firms who were members of the Council that Rogers & Wells had a leg up on business opportunities in Taiwan due to the co-location and Caps dual status.
The first year in Washington, D.C. saw the creation of the "Chairmans Circle", which was started in 1991 by Caspar Weinberger. The idea was to form a group consisting of CEOs from companies with major interests in US-Taiwan business and trade, who would be able to discuss relevant macroeconomic developments, influence economic relations between Taiwan and the US, enlarge bilateral trade between the two, and assist each other in achieving business objectives. The Chairmans Circle was a smashing success, and soon included 20 members.
In 1992, a Council delegation, made up of members of the Chairmans Circle and Board, held an important meeting with Vice President Quayle. The meeting agenda was to push for Cabinet level visitors from economic departments and agencies in the US to visit Taiwan in order to give US companies the same kind of support as our European competitors were getting from their governments. In December, the Administration sent Carla Hills, then the US Trade Representative, to the Councils Conference in Taiwan -- the first US Cabinet Officer to visit Taiwan since 1978. Her attendance contributed to the substantial success of the 1992 Conference.
In the summer of 1992 the Council was given a US Trade and Development Agency (TDA) grant ($100,000) to do a study of Taiwans Six-Year National Development Plan, and then a second grant ($200,000) to bring the results of the study to the US business community through a seminar series in six cities across the country. This series was a great success for the Council. In 1993 the Council was given another grant ($500,000) by TDA to bring four delegations of key ROC decision-makers -- two in telecommunications and two in environmental protection projects-to the US to show them US companies providing high quality goods and services. The Council was also given a $25,000 grant by the Department of Energy to put on a special seminar in Taiwan. The staff was increased from three to six to handle the increase in the Council workload.
The Councils management did not want to become dependent on government grant money, but viewed it as a useful bridge for a two to three year period. The grants enabled the Council to hire and train staff, and to provide a higher level of services and activities. In July of 1993, the Council made a major change in the dues and records system. It converted to an annualized (calendar year) billing system and raised dues for the first time since the Council was created in 1976.
During the 1992-1994 period, the Council achieved a great deal. In particular, industry sector committees were formed (defense & aerospace and banking & finance were the most active and productive), and the large quarterly newsletter was split into two bimonthly publications (Taiwan Business Notes and the Taiwan Economic News Newsletter). During this period, the Council also played an important role in the decision to send US cabinet officers to Taiwan, in the decision to sell F-16's to Taiwan, and in the easing of certain restrictions on the sale of other defense equipment to Taiwan. The Chairmans Circle was quite active, and the Council assisted a number of member companies in winning large contracts in Taiwan. In addition, the Board of Directors was expanded and strengthened.
The December 1994 Conference in Taipei was a great success. President Lee attended and gave an address for the first time, former President George Bush keynoted the Welcome Dinner, and Transportation Secretary Federico Pena attended as the first Cabinet Officer to visit Taiwan in the Clinton Administration. The announcement of Dan Tellep to succeed Caspar Weinberger as Council Chairman was made in January of 1995 and was very well received, as was Dans letter, which was read at the Conference. Dan Telleps main contribution in his two years of tenure as Chairman, 1995-1996, was in strengthening the governance and management of the Council. The position of Vice Chairman was created, and although it was never formally filled, William P. Clark, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of the Interior in the Reagan Administration, functioned informally in that capacity throughout the period of Cap Weinbergers and Dan Telleps Chairmanships.
In 1995, the Council had a memorable Chairmans Circle meeting with President Lee at Cornell University during his famous visit to the US In the spring of 1995, at the recommendation of the Board, the Council stopped producing the bimonthly hard copy editions of the Taiwan Economic News and Taiwan Business Notes, to instead produce a Monthly Fax Update. This was a change to move with the times and was well-received by the membership. In July 1995, the Council moved to 1726 M Street, NW, in Washington D.C. The 1995 Annual Conference was held in September in Anchorage, Alaska.
In 1996, the Council put on a highly successful Information Technology seminar in San Jose, California. Major speakers included Dan Tellep, Morris Chang (Chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Corp. and Wyse Technologies), Matthew Miao (Chairman of MiTAC), as well as other high profile industry personalities. The Conference that year in Taipei was a very successful event, opened again by President Lee and featuring Phil Lader, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, as the US "cabinet level" representative.
William P. Clark was elected Chairman in January 1997, succeeding Dan Tellep. In the spring, the Council began to hold bi-weekly coordination meetings with TECROs economic staff in order to strengthen Council relations with Taiwans representative organization in the US In June, Senators Frank H. Murkowski (R) of Alaska, and John D. Rockefeller, IV (D) of West Virginia became Honorary Co-chairmen of the Council.
During 1997, the Council held a number of important events for visiting VIPs from Taiwan, including Vincent Siew (who later became Premier), Minister of Economic Affairs C.K. Wang, CEPD Chairman P.K. Chiang, Foreign Minister John Chang, Minister of State and Science and Technology Adviser George Yang and the new Representative from Taiwan Stephen Chen. Jason Hu, the departing Representative, was very helpful in boosting the level of TECRO support for the Council, and included President David Laux in his meetings with the Governor of Virginia and Mayor of Baltimore in discussions about Taiwan investment in the US The 1997 Annual Conference was held in San Diego,
The following year, 1998, was another active year. The Council held a number of meetings with USTR to provide them collective US industry input to the negotiations with Taiwan on the terms of their accession to WTO. The Council also held a memorable dinner for President Chen Shui-bian, then Mayor of Taipei, and put on events for Paul Chiu, Taiwans Minister of Finance, in Washington, DC, New York, and Chicago. Larry Summers, then Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and head of the US Sub-Cabinet Level Dialogue with Taiwan, was the guest speaker at the Spring Board Meeting Luncheon. The 1998 Annual Meeting in Taipei was an unqualified success, and Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson was the US Cabinet level representative. During 1998, the Monthly Fax Update, which until now had served as a venue for Council members to receive information on events affecting the business environment in Taiwan, was replaced by weekly email bulletins. In addition to the general news Business Bulletin, distributed to all members, the eBulletins feature editions focused on PCs, telecommunications, semiconductors, defense & aerospace, as well as editions focused on intellectual property rights.
The Council had a good and active year in 1999. In January, the Council moved its offices from 1726 M St., NW, in Washington, DC, to 1700 N. Moore St. in Rosslyn, VA. The purpose of the move was to gain synergy by occupying space on the same floor with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the entity which, under contract to the US State Department, manages the unofficial US relationship with Taiwan. The active schedule included participation in a number of events celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act. The Council also sponsored events for Minister of Economic Affairs C.K. Wang, Minister of State George Yang, and Ray Burghardt, the new Director of AIT, Taipei. Assistant Secretary of State Stan Roth was the guest speaker at the Spring Board Luncheon.
During 1999, the Council supported several member companies in their bids for major contracts or sales in Taiwan. These included GE, Westinghouse and ABB bids on Taiwans fourth nuclear power plant (won by GE); Boeings efforts to sell aircraft to China Airlines and EVA (successful for 747's and 737's); several companies bids on the High Speed Rail Project; negotiation of favorable terms for the telecommunications portion of the WTO accession agreement (SBC, GTE and others); Frederic R. Harris successful bid on Taiwans $200 million Intermodal Rail System project; and numerous other smaller projects for a variety of Council members. The 1999 Annual Conference, also an outstanding success, was held in San Antonio, Texas.
The Honorable Frank C. Carlucci, Chairman of the Carlyle Group and former Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor, succeeded William P. Clark as Chairman in September of 1999.
During 1999 and 2000, the Council focused especially on strengthening corporate memberships and services in the areas of information technology and telecommunications, and the 2000 Annual Joint Business Conference was held in Taipei immediately following the Word Congress on Information Technology. The highlight of the conference was President Chen Shui Bians address during the plenary session. President Clinton also addressed the audience through a letter delivered and read by Secretary of Transportation, Rodney E. Slater. Other events throughout the year included a series of sector-specific luncheons in Washington D.C., a series of breakfasts with Representative C.J. Chen from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), and the first annual Intellectual Property Rights judicial seminar in Taipei.
In April of 2000, President David N. Laux stepped down as President of the Council, after almost 10 years in the position, to devote full time to the Presidency of the US-Taiwan Business Forum, a 501-c-3 educational foundation affiliated with the Council. On November 3, 2000, Mr. Rupert Hammond-Chambers, who had served as Vice President since 1998, as Executive Vice President since March 2000, and as Acting President since April 2000, was unanimously elected President by the Councils Board of Directors. In 2001, the name of the organization was again changed - to “US-Taiwan Business Council.” The Council held the inaugural US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference (using the name "Taiwan Defense Summit") in 2002, and has held it every year since.
In 2003, William Cohen was elected as Chairman, succeeding Frank Carlucci, and Senator Conrad Burns of Montana took the place of Frank Murkowski as Honorary Co-chairman. In 2005, the Council gained new leadership with the election of Senator William Brock to the Chairmanship and Vance D. Coffman to the position of Vice Chairman. In 2007, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska took over the Honorary Co-Chairman seat vacated by Conrad Burns. In 2008, Paul D. Wolfowitz joined the Council as its Chairman, succeeding Bill Brock. In 2016, Senator Robert “Bob” Menendez of New Jersey took over the Honorary Co-Chairman seat held by former Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who had held the post since 1997.