State Representative Ellen Cohen recently joined more than 300 international leaders to witness the democratic election of the 12th president of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The March 22 election of Kuomintang (KMT) nominee Ma Ying-jeou ended eight years of rule by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
In his invitation to Cohen and the other Texas representatives, Michael Ger, Acting Director
General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston, noted the “significant level of political, economic and cultural exchange over the past few decades” between Taiwan and Texas. Texas was the only state delegation among the more than 300 invited guests.
Ger pointed out that in 2006, “Taiwan was the fifth largest export market for Texas goods and the Taiwanese investment in Texas exceeded $5 billion.”
However, the Texas delegation learned that the state has no fulltime trade representative stationed in Taiwan. The only existing presence is shared with Hawaii.
“When Texas has such strong business ties to an international locale, we need more than part-time representation,” Cohen said.
As guests of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China, the delegation met with members of the KMT and DPP parties, numerous business leaders and government officials. They also visited polling stations and later that evening viewed results from election central.
“There was a definite sense of anticipation. With the lights and the tally board, I got a sense I was back in Houston on election night,” Cohen said of the evening filled with dips and swells in the tallied results.
“We were watching democracy in action, a relatively young democracy at that,” Cohen recounted. “And we were told that over 70% of the population votes. To me, that’s something that makes a statement for the rest of us.”
Other members of the Texas delegation included Ben Barnes, former Lt. Governor of Texas; Shara Fryer, president of the World Affairs Council of Houston; Clayton Hagerman, president of The Hagerman Group, Inc.; George P. Bush, COO of the N3 Opportunity Fund, and Angel Liu, Senior Consular Officer of TECO-Houston.