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Thu, Feb 01, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Proposed US bill lifts WHO hopes

By Nadia Tsao  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A new bill sponsored by US Representative Sherrod Brown calling for a plan to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the annual summit of the World Health Assembly this coming May indicates renewed hope for Taiwan's WHO bid.

Headed by DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), a delegation from Taiwan to the 2001 National Prayer Breakfast visited Brown yesterday, expressing their gratitude for his strong and persistent support for Taiwan's participation in the WHO.

Brown's aides noted that they were looking for additional sponsorship for a bill to support Taiwan's entry in the WHO, which may be introduced in Congress on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), director-general of Taiwan's Department of Health, was expected to arrive in Washington yesterday.

Lee will be joining Brown and other lawmakers in a breakfast meeting today to win greater support from Capitol Hill for Taiwan's participation in the WHO.

The bill proposes that the US secretary of state initiate a plan to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the annual week-long summit of the WHO assembly in May in Geneva, Switzerland.

The bill stipulates that the secretary of state should submit a written report to Congress containing the plan no later than 14 days after enactment of the bill.

Sources said more than a dozen lawmakers have already signed on to co-sponsor the bill, including Representative Henry Hyde, chairman of the powerful House International Relations Committee.

Brown introduced a similar bill last March, but no progress toward its passage was made.

Taiwan has been lobbying for WHO membership for many years, and although it has won great sympathy and support on Capital Hill, no substantial progress has been achieved.

Last October, the Department of Health in Taiwan was offended by a decision by the WHO to leave Taiwan off a list of a polio-free countries that was released in Japan. China was on the list, and Taiwan was included as a part of China.

Lee protested that "the success of polio eradication in Taiwan does not equate to China's situation."

Taiwan officials and Taiwan lobby groups such as the Formosa Association for Public Affairs said that they understand it is impossible to get US support for Taiwan's UN entry.

However, many of them believe that there is a window of opportunity with the Bush administration, as his team acknowledges Taiwan should have more international space and is likely to review US-Taiwan relations sometime in the next few months.

The officials and lobbyists said they are optimistic about gaining observer status in the WHO, though they say endorsement of Taiwan's full membership is still unlikely.

They hope to get the bill passed before May and are expecting further breakthroughs in Taiwan's participation in international organizations in the near future.

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