Two US senators on Friday reintroduced the Taiwan relations reinforcement act, which they said seeks to update US policy toward Taiwan to better reflect US values and the realities on the ground.
The bipartisan bill was introduced by US Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and US Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat and chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
If passed, the act would change the status of the director of the American Institute in Taiwan to “representative,” making their appointment subject to Senate approval, as is required for all US ambassadors.
It would also require the US president to establish an “inter-agency Taiwan task force,” comprised of senior government officials who would submit an annual report to the US Congress detailing actions that should be taken to enhance Taiwan-US relations.
Another provision would establish a nonprofit Taiwan-US cultural exchange foundation, which would work with local governments and educational institutions to send US high-school and university students to Taiwan to study Chinese, history and politics.
The act would also direct the US secretary of state to submit a report to Congress on how the US could work with Taiwan to establish an alternative to China’s Confucius Institutes, which offer Chinese-language education courses globally.
Merkley called on the US to keep building a robust relationship with Taiwan.
“Let’s pass the Taiwan relations reinforcement act, so we can expand exchange programs, continue to encourage Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations and work together to defend our businesses from the Chinese government’s coercion,” he said.
The bill was previously introduced in the Senate in October last year, but was not included in the congressional schedule of the previous term.
Meanwhile, a group of nine lawmakers asked US President Joe Biden’s administration to establish a facility to expedite travel to the US from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, as a show of support amid fears Taiwan could be targeted by an increasingly aggressive China.
The group of seven Republicans and two Democrats said in a letter dated Thursday that a preclearance facility at the airport “would improve the ease of travel between the United States and Taiwan and reinforce the importance of our relationship with Taiwan.”
The airport “already hosts numerous nonstop flights to the United States, and is a major transit point in Asia,” the lawmakers wrote to Troy Miller, the senior official performing the duties of the commissioner for US Customs and Border Protection.
“Taiwan is America’s ninth-largest trading partner and its government strongly supports Taoyuan airport’s bid for the preclearance facility program,” they added.
Preclearance facilities put US customs agents in a traveler’s starting country to make entry into the US go more smoothly.
Then-acting US secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a speech in December last year that Taiwan had made the request, but the Biden administration has not said if it will proceed with the plan.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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