The US House of Representatives has unanimously passed the Taiwan Travel Act, legislation that encourages visits between Taiwan and the US at all levels, including high-ranking officials.
The bill, a follow-up to the Taiwan Relations Act, was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and others in January last year and was passed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in October before being submitted for a vote by the full House.
The legislation still has to be passed by the US Senate to become law.
“The US and Taiwan share a commitment to democracy, rule of law and human rights... We should be supporting countries that have achieved democracy to serve as inspiration for these values across the Asia-Pacific [region],” Royce said following the passage of the bill.
The bill says that ties between Taiwan and the US have suffered from insufficient high-level communication since the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 because of self-imposed restrictions by the US on visits by top officials to Taiwan.
“The United States government should encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels,” the bill says.
If the bill becomes law, high-level Taiwanese officials would be able to travel to the US and meet with US officials, including officials from the US Department of State, as well as conduct business in the US.
High-ranking Taiwanese officials have been barred from direct diplomatic engagement in Washington and senior US officials have not visited Taiwan since the US severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979.
US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said that the council supports the bill.
“We believe it will improve communication between Taiwan and the United States, specifically expanding the understanding of Taiwan’s situation to decisionmakers in Washington,” he said.
The US House yesterday also passed a bill that directs the US secretary of state to help Taiwan regain observer status at the WHO and increases reporting requirements.
Royce said the passage of the two bills sent a strong message of support for Taiwan.
The WHO bill says that the 108th US Congress in 2004 passed legislation directing the US secretary of state to establish a strategy for, and to report annually to the US Congress on, efforts to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly, the decisionmaking body of the WHO.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington expressed gratitude to the US Congress for the goodwill and high level of support it has shown to Taiwan during the legislative process.
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