Thu, Oct 26, 2017 - Page 8 News List

US bill aims to restore Taiwan’s WHA status

By Lin Shih-chia 林世嘉

On Sept. 28, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passed House Bill H.R.3320, which directs the US secretary of state to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Assembly (WHA). It was initiated by Republican representatives Ted Yoho and Steve Chabot, together with Democratic representatives Brad Sherman and Gerald Connolly.

The bill was passed by the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on July 27, and was endorsed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is chaired by US Representative Ed Royce.

The bill has been sent to the US House of Representatives for a vote.

The next step is pushing for the US Senate to pass the bill and have it signed into law by the US president.

Over the past decades, the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan (FMPAT) has visited congresses, government branches and non-governmental organizations in like-minded nations, such as the US, Japan and those in Europe, to lobby for Taiwan’s participation in the WHO.

The progression of achievements — although with some frustrations — has shown that ceaseless lobbying is of paramount importance for rallying international support for Taiwan’s cause.

Therefore, to strengthen the US’ commitment to addressing Taiwan’s participation in global health affairs, people must continue lobbying the US for its support — especially for the Senate to pass the bill — and urge the US president to sign the bill into law.

With tremendous efforts over the past two decades from the public sector and civil organizations, such as the Formosan Association for Public Affairs and FMPAT, both the US House and the Senate have passed several bills in support of Taiwan’s participation in the WHO.

Furthermore, in 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2004, US presidents signed several bills into public law — 106-137,107-10,107-158, 108-28 and 108-235 — which require the US government to support Taiwan’s participation in the WHO.

Public Law 108-235, which was passed in 2004, requires the US secretary of state to submit a report to the US Congress prior to April 1 each year on US efforts to support Taiwan’s participation in the international body.

Until now, regardless of political party, the US Department of State’s continuous adherence to the requirement has indicated the long-term benefits of enacting pro-Taiwan bills in the US.

Apart from mandating the department’s report on strategies to regain Taiwan’s observer status in the WHA, the new bill also instructs the US secretary of state to report how the department has improved its strategies to help Taiwan on this issue following any annual meetings of the WHA.

The US government has passed this bill in response to China’s senseless pressures on preventing Taiwan from attending the WHA this year.

In the short term, if this bill becomes law, the promotion of Taiwan’s participation will enter a new stage and further encourage other nations to follow suit.

However, as I have been proposing during my visits to foreign embassies in Taiwan, the long-term strategy should be lobbying each nation to push the WHA to pass a resolution to normalize nation’s participation in the WHA each year and would thus stop Taiwan from being used as a bargaining chip in political deals.

Lin Shih-chia is executive director of the Foundation of Medical Professional Alliance in Taiwan and a former Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator.

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