US congressional interest in Taiwan is likely to manifest itself early after the 110th Congress convenes next week, with lawmakers expected to introduce bills to aid Taiwan that failed to make it through the legislative process in the waning months of the session that just ended, a new congressional research report said.
The issues that congressmembers are seen supporting will deal with a US-Taiwan free trade agreement (FTA), diplomatic and military contacts between US and Taiwan officials and Taiwan's participation in the WHO, the report said.
However, the report warns that congressional members remain concerned over the lack of progress by the legislature in approving the purchase of US weapons.
The report, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade: Key Issues for the 110th Congress, was prepared by the Congressional Research Service, which provides members with research and advice on issues facing the lawmakers.
A section on China, prepared by Kerry Dumbaugh, the research service's chief expert on Taiwanese and Chinese political issues, states that "Congressional sentiment, long favorable toward Taiwan, has sought to find ways to support Taiwan's interests amidst growing congressional frustration over Taiwan's political gridlock and lagging defense spending."
"Early in the 110th Congress, members may seek to support a Free Trade Agreement with Taiwan, one of that government's high priorities and could renew efforts to discontinue funding for US government restrictions that limit US contacts with Taiwan officials," it said.
"As in past congresses, the 110th is likely to remain interested in helping Taiwan gain observer status in the World Health Organization despite obstacles mounted by the PRC [People's Republic of China]," it said.
"Finally, members of the 110th also are likely to remain concerned about Taiwan's waning defense spending and US arms sales purchases," it said.
On a broader scale, the report said that Asian security issues that "may draw the attention of the 110th Congress include flashpoints along the Taiwan Strait," while congressional attention will also be drawn to the "rise of China and its increasing influence in the region and globally."
The report also listed China's rising power and cross-strait tensions as "major oversight issues in Asia for the new Congress."
The report's mention of FTA legislation appeared noteworthy in view of the lack of success such bills enjoyed in the 109th Congress, which wrapped up this month. Three FTA bills were introduced this year -- two in the House and one in the Senate -- but none was even considered by the committees with jurisdiction over the issue.
The Democrats who will control the incoming Congress are generally considered to be less favorable to FTAs than the Republicans who lost both chambers in last month's elections, so the fate of a Taiwan FTA bill would seem to be questionable.
On the issue of contacts between US and Taiwan officials, one bill was approved easily in the House this past year, but died in the Senate. That bill, spearheaded by Representative Thomas Tancredo, would have prevented the Bush administration from spending any money enforcing decades-old State Department rules that put strict, and some say silly, limits on how officials conduct bilateral relations.
Those rules, for instance, require that almost all official meetings take place in area restaurants and social clubs.
On the WHO issue, not one bill was introduced in this year's session as the issue overall did not generate the attention it did in earlier years, when as many as several bills were introduced each year.
The Congressional Research report does not mention a number of other Taiwan-related issues that have come up this year and in years past. One would support high-level visits by US officials to Taiwan and by Taiwanese officials to the US, including visits by President Chen Shui-bian (
Congressmen who have sponsored such measures in the past were by and large re-elected last month, and could be expected to push such legislation again.
PILLAGING PENGHU: A 7,539-tonne Chinese ship found mining sand in the Formosa Banks area was escorted by several CGA ships to a Kaohsiung harbor The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday announced that it had dispatched ships to intercept Chinese dredging vessels operating in the nation’s territorial waters near Penghu and detained 10 crew members, who were transported to Kaohsiung. A coast guard patrol discovered more than 20 dredging vessels in an area known as the Formosa Banks, 46 nautical miles (85km) southwest of Penghu County’s Cimei islet (七美) at about 5am on Wednesday. The agency responded by dispatching two patrol boats, the 3,000-tonne Kaohsiung and the 500-tonne Penghu, along with two frigates, to intercept the Chinese vessels, while an airborne observation unit was used to monitor
‘HONEYMOON’ IS OVER: A political science professor said that the Tsai administration’s popularity peaked after it successfully contained COVID-19, but is waning President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) and Premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) approval ratings fell significantly this month in the wake of the government’s handling of the distribution of relief funds and stimulus coupons to people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a poll released yesterday by the New Power Party (NPP) showed. The poll showed that 68 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Tsai’s performance, down 8.9 percentage points from last month, while 21 percent said they disapproved of her performance. Her approval among respondents aged 20 to 29 fell 14.7 percentage points, the largest decrease when compared with other age
CAUTION: The CECC would first observe how the nation fares after easing domestic restrictions and wait for the pandemic to further subside before making its next move The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday said that relaxing domestic restrictions and border controls simultaneously might complicate efforts to reopen the nation, amid discussions about Taiwan’s exclusion by other countries in their first lists of tourists. The center hopes for there to be a period of observation following the easing of domestic restrictions, before it decides what to do next, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a daily news briefing in Taipei. Chen was responding to a question about the reasoning behind the central government’s decision not to allow foreign students into the
Taiwan respects other countries’ decisions not to include it in their first lists of tourists allowed entry when they reopen their borders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sunday reported that the Japanese government was considering reopening the country to tourists from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand first. Greece on Friday announced that from June 15, it would allow visitors from 29 countries, including Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and Germany. Japan has not yet finalized its visitor list, but the ministry has conveyed its hope that Tokyo would