In-Depth: House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced this bill to enhance engagement between the U.S. and Taiwan to deepen their shared relationship:
“When the Taiwan Relations Act was signed into law forty years ago, it built an unshakeable foundation for the United States relationship with Taiwan. In the decades since, Taiwan has developed into a critical U.S. partner and a beacon of democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law in a region threatened by authoritarian hegemony. However, our critical relationship with Taiwan is being needlessly constrained by excessive restrictions, driven by communist China’s bullying. The Taiwan Assurance Act will ensure that our partnership with Taiwan is based on the relationship’s own merits—cutting red tape and building on the foundation the TRA gave us. I’m proud to bring forward these bipartisan measures with Chairman Engel as we approach this historic 40th anniversary.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, adds:
“Taiwan has a vibrant, pluralistic democracy, and is an indispensable partner in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. In the four decades since the signing of the landmark Taiwan Relations Act, Taiwan has demonstrated what it means to be a model global citizen, making substantial contributions on issues ranging from global health, to combating terrorism, to investing in sustainable and equitable economic growth at home and abroad. As we mark this important milestone, I’m happy to join with Ranking Member McCaul in offering legislation to make it crystal clear: the United States commitment to Taiwan, undergirded by the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, remains as ironclad today as it was 40 years ago.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who sponsors this bill’s Senate companion, adds:
“Taiwan is a vital democratic partner of the United States. 40 years after the Taiwan Relations Act was signed into law, our bilateral ties should reflect this reality. This legislation would deepen bilateral security, economic, and cultural relations, while also sending a message that China's aggressive cross-Strait behavior will not be tolerated.”
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) notes that the current State Dept. guidelines have “long inhibited smooth bilateral relations” between the U.S. and Taiwan, as State Dept. officials can’t meet with Taiwanese counterparts in executive office buildings and, therefore, can’t treat Taiwanese dignitaries with the formalities and honors granted to other foreign visitors. AEI says this “denies [Taiwanese dignitaries] dignity without meaningfully advancing US interests in Asia.” AEI argues that a more normal relationship with Taiwan has “both symbolic and substantial value,” as treating Taiwan as a normal diplomatic partner emphasizes the U.S.’ commitment to the island’s de facto independence and can help dispel doubts in Beijing that Washington would actually aid Taipei in a crisis.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has expressed Taiwan’s appreciation for this bill. It’s also said that it’ll continue promoting the “cooperative partnership” between Taiwan and the U.S. In another statement, Taiwan’s representative office in the U.S. expressed appreciation to Congress for supporting Taiwan's sovereignty, freedom and democracy amid China's provocation.
Were this bill to pass, it’d anger Beijing as the U.S. and China work towards a possible deal to end a month-long tariff dispute. Taiwan is a major flashpoint between the U.S. and China, as China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.
The Chinese government has been vocal about its desire to reunify Taiwan and China. In a January 2, 2019 speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” a policy document issued by the National People’s Congress on the day China and the U.S. formally established relations after Washington broke ties with Taiwan on January 1, 1979, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Taiwanese officials to work with Mainland Chinese officials to realize the “historic task” of complete reunification. Xi said:
“It is a historical conclusion drawn over 70 years of development of cross-strait relations, and a must for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in the new era. It’s a legal fact that both sides of the Strait belong to one China, and cannot be changed by anyone or any force.”
This bill passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a voice vote with 22 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 18 Republicans and four Democrats. A Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) with the support of five bipartisan cosponsors (including three Democrats and two Republicans), has also been introduced.
When they introduced this bill, Reps. McCaul and Engel also introduced House Resolution 273, which reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Taiwan and the implementation of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979. Both pieces of legislation were introduced on April 2, 2019, ahead of the TRA’s fortieth anniversary on April 10, 2019.
Of Note: The U.S. relationship with Taiwan is defined by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), passed by Congress in 1979, which authorized continued “commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan” after the U.S. established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China. The TRA mandates special American obligations and commitments to Taiwan, and is the only legal underpinning of U.S. policy toward Taiwan. Under the TRA, the U.S. doesn’t have formal ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to help defend the island nation and is its main source of arms. According to the Pentagon, the U.S. has sold Taiwan over $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / P_Wei)