Sun, Jul 15, 2007 - Page 1 News List

FAPA undaunted by US committee rejection of bill

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A group of Taiwanese lobbyists said they remained hopeful that US restrictions on communications with Taiwanese officials would be eased despite a Senate committee's rejection of a proposed legislation last week.

The legislation sought to prevent the administration of US President George W. Bush from enforcing a set of restrictive guidelines issued by the Department of State by preventing it from spending any money to enforce the curbs.

The guidelines prevent high-level US officials from visiting Taiwan; bar Taiwanese officials from the White House and State Department and US officials from Taiwan-owned premises; curb written and other communication between the two sides; forbid US officials from using the terms "Republic of China," "government" or "Taiwanese" in referring to Taiwan; and prevent US officials from attending Double Tenth celebrations.

The guidelines have been in effect in various forms since 1979, but the legislation focuses on what is believed to be the latest iteration, issued by the department in 2002.

Those restrictions have been variously described as "nonsensical," "silly" and "absurd" by Taiwan's supporters in Congress.

The House voted last month by unanimous consent to add the measure as an amendment to a State Department funding bill. But when the funding bill got to the Senate, the Appropriations Committee replaced the House bill with a substitute of its own, which excluded the Taiwan provision. The committee sent the substitute to the full Senate this past week.

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), Taiwan's main congressional lobbying organization, said it still hopes to get the provision restored when the funding bill is taken up on the Senate floor later in the session, probably in September.

"We will definitely make all efforts to make sure that somebody introduces the bill on the Senate floor," Coen Blaauw of FAPA told the Taipei Times. "We are confident that the bill can clear all the hurdles" toward passage.

On Friday, FAPA officials met with the staff of congressman Tom Tancredo, the main sponsor of the Taiwan provision in the House, to develop a strategy to get the provision included in the final bill.

While they have targeted a number of senators who could introduce the amendment, they did not divulge their names for fear of giving China's lobbyists ammunition to try to sideline the effort.

After the Senate votes on the funding bill, any differences with the House version would have to be reconciled in a conference between the two sides. It would be possible then for the conference to adopt the House wording, even if the Senate had rejected it before.

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