The first session of the Taiwan-US Consultations on Democratic Governance in the Indo-Pacific Region began yesterday at the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) new compound in Taipei, with the AIT saying that promoting Taiwan as a model of good governance is one of the forum’s goals.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) and AIT Director Brent Christensen in March announced the establishment of the forum.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby — who is leading a US delegation on a five-day trip that ends today — and representatives from Japan, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, Kiribati and South Korea attended opening ceremony.

The forum, which is to be held annually, is designed to formalize, regularize and deepen cooperation between the US and Taiwan on good governance issues, Christensen said in his opening speech.

The forum is a testament to the US’ belief that Taiwan deserves international backing and is well-equipped to support the international community in many ways, he said.

The US’ vision for the Indo-Pacific region has three pillars: economics, security and governance, Christensen said.

Taiwan truly exemplifies good governance as plays a role in all of the three pillars, he said, adding that there is a need to promote transparency and rule of law in the region.

The US’ Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative (IPTI) aims to pursue cooperation with allies, partners and regional institutions, including ASEAN and APEC, and the forum would focus on exploring concrete ways to fully incorporate Taiwan in the initiative, he said.

In his speech, Wu said that Taiwan and the US have already been working hand-in-hand in each of the five major areas the IPTI covers.

“Taiwan’s embrace of democracy shows a better path for all Chinese,” Wu said. “However, the world should not take Taiwan’s hard-earned democracy for granted.”

China is attempting to undermine democracy in Taiwan, which is the target of mounting military pressure, increasing influence operations and an intensifying disinformation campaign, he said.

People in Hong Kong and other parts of China might one day not look up to Taiwan as a model to emulate, he said.

Nevertheless, Taiwan knows its responsibility and is determined to make itself a beacon for those longing for freedom, democracy and protection of human rights, he said.

As Taiwan in March promised it would donate US$1 million over five years to the International Religious Freedom Fund run by the US Department of State, Wu yesterday presented Christensen with a mockup of a check for the first donation of US$200,000.

Additional reporting by CNA