Former US representative Pat Schroeder, who voted nearly 40 years ago in favor of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) has said that the act works “pretty well” for Taiwan, as it has continued to thrive on all fronts nearly four decades later.
Schroeder in 1973 became the first female US representative elected in Colorado and blazed a trail for a new generation of women on Capitol Hill.
“I am very surprised that 40 years later, it [the TRA] has worked so well. At the time it was drafted, we had never done anything like that before, and I think it’s worked pretty well,” she said in an interview with the Central News Agency on Tuesday.
“There were a lot of things we were involved in that we had to change after, the world has changed, but I haven’t seen they said that about Taiwan,” she said.
She praised Taiwan’s level of education, public transportation system and economic environment.
The US changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing on Jan. 1, 1979. A few months later, the US Congress passed the TRA, which was promulgated by then-US president Jimmy Carter on April 10, 1979.
The TRA provides the legal basis for unofficial relations between Taiwan and the US, and pledges a commitment to assist Taiwan in maintaining its self-defense capabilities.
Asked to comment on the background of the TRA, Schroeder said she was not surprised to see Carter cutting ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing, because after former US president Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, “everybody thought that was the next step.”
Schroeder shared a story behind the cutting of ties with Taiwan.
She and her husband were invited by then-US secretary of defense Harold Brown to watch Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center, she said.
During the show, she overheard Brown receiving a call from Carter telling him that the US would recognize Beijing and ditch Taipei, Schroeder said, adding that Brown was asked to call then-US senator Barry Goldwater, a strong supporter of Taiwan, to inform him of the decision.
“And the senator was very unhappy [to hear that],” she said.
Schroeder said that she had been following the drafting of the TRA closely for months, as one of her husband’s law partners was then-president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei Robert Parker, at TRA hearings in Washington.
“We got to work on this [TRA] right away. We got to really figuring out how Taiwan-US relations were going forward,” she said. “In just a few months we had it done.”
Schroeder said she does not share the concerns of some that Taiwan could be used as a bargaining chip in ongoing trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing.
“I have never heard anybody say that it [Taiwan] was a bargaining chip — I think that’s just from people who like to worry,” she said.
“It is like saying that the US will trade out Israel or England,” she said, adding that Taiwan, England and Israel are cemented in US foreign policy and that is unlikely to ever change.
Turning to women’s rights, Schroeder said to better empower women, Taiwan and the US need to make it easier for women to work outside the home and offer better caregiving options.
“Caregiving for people is a really important thing in both of our societies, but people who are caregivers are given the least. So I think both of our societies need to work on that,” she said.
Citing examples in the US, Schroeder said there are several hospitals in the US that have been experimenting with having their own childcare centers.
These centers can also reach out to families who have children with disabilities, who are sometimes better catered for in hospitals, she said.
This year is the first year that women who run for public office in the US have been able to deduct childcare as a campaign expense, she added.
She praised Taiwan for doing a much better job in terms of empowering women as leaders in politics.
Talking about the significance of women’s participation in politics, Schroeder said she believes women have a different view of the world than men.
“It is always better if you can put both of these views into the legislation,” she said.
For female politicians, there is much more focus on family and caregiving, as well as education,” she said. “These are softer issues, but they are also very important issues.”
Schroeder arrived in Taiwan on Monday last week to attend a women’s leadership and empowerment workshop. She left on Thursday.
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