Last month, Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen met with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Houston Governor Greg Abbott while in transit to Central America. Both Senator Cruz and Governor Abbott expressed a desire to strengthen economic ties and trade relations between the US and Taiwan. In his statement, Senator Cruz emphasized that furthering economic cooperation “must be a priority.” His meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen included a discussion of opportunities to upgrade the bilateral relations between Texas and Taiwan and the topic of arms sales.
Taiwan and Texas are important diplomatic and trading partners. Texas shares eight sister city partnerships with Taiwan — the second most of any state — including one between Houston and Taipei, established in 1961. President Tsai pointed out that Texas and Taiwan have similar interests in innovative industries such as energy, biotechnology, smart machinery, and defense industries. In 2015, Taiwan was Texas’ 5th largest export market in Asia, importing $3.31 billion worth of merchandise from the state, and reciprocating with $10 billion of investment. Economic cooperation with Taiwan, including billions of dollars in investment, has directly supported thousands of jobs in Texas. In July 2015, Taiwan-based carrier Eva Airlines launched its direct passenger service between Taipei and Houston, shortening the travel time, and facilitating trade, investment, and tourism opportunities.
Texas has myriad interactions with Asia. In Texas, 38 communities have 61 sister city relationships with Asian counterparts including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan. In 2015, Texas exported $42 billion worth of merchandise to Asia, 17% of the state’s total merchandise export. Total goods exports in 2015 was estimated to support 1.1 million jobs in Texas, thus exports to Asia supported nearly 200,000 jobs.
Anh Pham is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC, and a master's candidate in international affairs at the School of International Service, American University.