The US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved the “Taiwan Policy Act” on Thursday to “strengthen and clarify” US-Taiwan relations.
While the bill contains substantial policy changes that would benefit Taiwan, and this latest development was significant, it still has a long way to go before becoming law.
A version has yet to be introduced in the Senate and the House leadership must now be persuaded to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Nevertheless, insiders agree that if the bill does reach the House floor it has enough support to pass and sources say there is “interest” in introducing a similar bill into the Senate.
At the very least, the bill demonstrates once again that Taiwan maintains powerful backing and goodwill in the House.
“US-Taiwan relations have suffered from inattention and lack of strategic vision,” the bill says.
The act would transfer the guided missile frigates USS Taylor, USS Carr and USS Elrod to Taiwan and make available upgrades to modern combat aircraft, submarines and short-range air defense. It also authorizes the president to accept a letter of request for F-16C/D jets; encourages Cabinet-level visits; permits meetings between high-level officials in all executive departments; and allows the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office and the American Institute in Taiwan to display their respective flags.
It also calls for completion of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and seeks the negotiation of a free-trade agreement with Taiwan; supports meaningful participation for Taiwan in relevant UN organizations and seeks to ensure participation for Taiwan in the World Health Assembly.
The bill was introduced by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and co-chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, respresentatives Mario Diaz-Balart, Gerald Connolly, John Carter and Albio Sires.
“Our relationship with Taiwan is a cornerstone of US foreign policy in the region,” said committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican.
“Our relations with Taiwan are stronger than ever, yet Taiwan faces a precarious situation as North Korea remains unpredictable and China continues to ramp up its military presence in the region and pursue antagonistic policies in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
“With the ever-expanding territorial ambitions of China, the US-Taiwan alliance becomes more and more important,” Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said.
“We at FAPA will mobilize all our members all over the US to help ensure that this critically important bill becomes law at the earliest opportunity,” he said.