TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The first U.S.-Taiwan consultations on democratic governance began on Thursday (Sept. 12) at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), signaling further cooperation between the two countries.

“Taiwan offers one of the best models of governance in the [Indo-Pacific] region for others to emulate,” remarked Scott Busby, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, at the opening ceremony of the talks. “I firmly believe that Taiwan’s global footprint should be commensurate with its impressive democracy,” he added.

“As we stand here together in an open and democratic land, we recognize that freedom is never guaranteed and requires constant nurturing,” said Busby. “This is all the more true given that not far away, across the Taiwan Strait, lies a repressive, authoritarian regime that threatens these liberties we hold dear,” he said.

The new forum, part of the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative, was unveiled in March and is aimed at promoting democratic institutions and transparent governance throughout the region. The United States will collaborate with Taiwan and other partners to promote freedom and assure a peaceful and thriving Indo-Pacific, said Busby.

The consultations reflect “the ongoing U.S. commitment to working with Taiwan to promote good governance and defend democratic institutions,” said AIT Director Brent Christensen. He added that officials will explore ways to promote Taiwan as an example of good governance for the entire region.

The director stated that the forum should be held annually and serve as the primary platform for pursuing joint U.S.-Taiwan projects that assist other countries in addressing the governance challenges of the day. In addition to Taiwanese and American officials, the forum was attended by representatives from Japan, the U.K., Canada, and Taiwan’s Pacific allies.

Taiwan has become a prime target of disinformation and military coercion, said the country’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), as he criticized Chinese maneuvers intended to sabotage Taiwan’s democracy. “We are proud to set a shining example for others in the region to follow, but the Chinese government wants to undermine our democracy, so that one day the people in Hong Kong or other parts of China can no longer look to Taiwan as a model to emulate,” the minister said.