US Representative Ed Royce, a strong supporter of Taiwan, has been officially chosen to become the next chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs.
It is an important appointment for Taipei because the committee chairman controls hearings and is strongly positioned to promote the legislation that he favors.
A Republican, Royce is taking over from another supporter of Taiwan, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
House Republicans impose a six-year term limit on the committee chairperson and Ros-Lehtinen’s tenure was up.
Republican leaders picked Royce over Representative Chris Smith.
Royce has co-sponsored six pro-Taiwan pieces of legislation over the past two years and is a founding member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.
He has fought hard, but unsuccessfully, for a free-trade agreement (FTA) for Taiwan and has co-sponsored Taiwan FTA bills.
One such bill managed to pass the House Committee on Foreign Affairs a few years ago.
“The truth is that trade is very important to Taiwanese security,” Royce said.
“Security isn’t based on weapons alone. It may be wishful thinking with this administration and Congress, but I’d like to see movement on a free-trade agreement with Taiwan. Certainly, if we throw up trade barriers, it would significantly destabilize Taiwan’s economy. Let’s not give free trade short shrift,” he added.
As committee chairman he will almost certainly continue to promote an FTA with Taiwan, but the administration of US President Barack Obama is unlikely to get behind the idea and FTA legislation would probably be killed in the Senate.
Royce is also a strong proponent of the sale of F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan.
“Taiwan faces one of the most complex and lethal military threats in the world,” the US representative said recently.
“Across the region, in response to China’s buildup and increasing assertiveness, China’s neighbors are moving to strengthen their security relationships with the US. This gravitation to the US will only last as long as the US is seen as a credible guarantor of stability. Moving forward with this F-16 sale would be an appropriate signal to Taiwan and to the region,” Royce added.
When former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) visited the US, Royce co-sponsored a resolution welcoming him.
Recently, Royce wrote to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) calling for medical parole for Chen, who is serving an 18-and-a-half-year prison sentence for corruption.
“I have worked closely with Ed over the past years and I know he will be able to lead our committee through the tough foreign policy challenges that face our country,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
She said that Royce’s leadership and determination would help guide US foreign policy “in the right direction” to better serve the interests of the people.
“Ed Royce truly cares about the best interests of Taiwan,” Formosa Association for Public Affairs official Coen Blaauw said. “He will do whatever he can to help the island [Taiwan].”