US official Atul Keshap gives a speech at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei on Sept. 25. (Photo/CNA)
Taiwan's inclusion in the United States' visa waiver program will help boost tourism and benefit the economies of both sides, a visiting senior American economics official said Tuesday.
"Tourism is another area that both supports the relationship between our peoples and drives our economic activity," Atul Keshap, a senior US official for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), said during a speech at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.
Visiting Taiwan for the first time, Keshap said he knows there is great anticipation in Taiwan over the US granting the country visa waiver status.
"I heard this message loud and clear in the few days I've been here and in almost every single meeting," he said with a smile. "I fully share that anticipation."
Taiwan's inclusion in the program will expand the strong business, travel and cultural ties between peoples of the two sides, Keshap said.
According to government statistics, Taiwanese visitor numbers to the US reached some 400,000 in 2011.
Taiwan was announced as a candidate for the US visa waiver program in late December 2011. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also recommended that the US Department of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for membership.
The US official arrived in Taipei on Sunday, fulfilling a promise made by Clinton to Lien Chan, Taiwan's representative to the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, during a meeting on the sidelines of the summit held early September.
Clinton said she would dispatch Keshap to Taiwan to "consult on further broadening the US economic relationship with Taiwan," according to a statement by the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents US interests in Taiwan.
Keshap is a career US Foreign Service officer who coordinates economic and trade diplomacy toward the 21 APEC member economies.
Lien Chan 連戰