By John Liu ,The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is scheduled to meet President Ma Ying-jeou today, making her the first Cabinet-level U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 14 years. McCarthy will stay in Taiwan for three days. The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said yesterday that McCarthy’s visit is a testament to the close collaboration between Taiwan and the U.S. on a wide range of environmental issues. McCarthy is expected to sign a new environmental cooperation agreement. While trade agreements with other countries have recently generated much debate and domestic rancor, the U.S. government has been very supportive of President Ma’s foreign policies, and McCarthy’s visit is like a “fuel delivery in the midst of snow,” government officials said. McCarthy’s itinerary includes a tour at JianAn Elementary School in Taipei, where she will visit its low carbon classrooms and ecological ponds, as well as arranging a videoconference between the school and Ben Franklin Elementary School in the U.S. state of New Jersey. She will also provide a keynote speech at National Taiwan University, sharing her experiences and outlook on U.S.-Taiwan collaboration on environmental education. According to Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥), the Minister of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), McCarthy will attend a “Taiwan-U.S. sustainable school fellowship project,” “Taiwan-U.S. 20 year collaboration exhibition” and a “global environmental education fellowship meeting,” among other activities. She is expected to visit local schools and the environmental agencies of other townships. Since 1993, AIT and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have established more than 190 collaborative projects with Taiwan, assisting the government on areas such as environment monitoring, information systems as well as soil, air and water-related risk management, EPA Deputy Minister Yeh Shin-cheng (葉欣誠) said, adding that nearly every task of the EPA falls within the scope of these partnerships. A New Beginning
in Diplomatic Ties Sources say McCarthy’s decision to visit Taiwan was made as early as last year. In December 2013, Taiwan’s then-top envoy to the U.S. King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) returned to Taiwan in secret, reportedly to arrange McCarthy’s visit. Her trip was abruptly canceled, however, after the news leaked. Sources say King had been busy coordinating the high-profile trip before his resignation at the end of March.
McCarthy’s visit will mark “a new beginning” in the two countries’ foreign relations, said government officials. Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) pointed out that McCarthy’s visit demonstrates “substantial” development in Taiwan-U.S.’s cooperation, adding that environmental collaboration will also facilitate technological development. The government said the Cabinet-level visit showcases close diplomatic ties between Taiwan and the U.S. Since President Ma’s inauguration, other high-level U.S. officials that have visited Taiwan include U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade at the Department of Commerce Francisco J. Sanchez, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development USAID Rajiv Shah. The last U.S. Cabinet member to visit Taiwan came in 2000, when Rodney Slater, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation under U.S. President Bill Clinton, arrived on the island to attend the 24th Annual Joint Business Conference of the U.S.-R.O.C. (Taiwan) and R.O.C.-USA Business Councils.