US House of Representatives passes Taiwan Travel Act

The other Act passed the same day by House lawmakers is to help Taiwan regain observer status in WHO

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills on Tuesday aimed at strengthening U.S.-Taiwan relations.

The two bills passed are the Taiwan Travel Act (H.R. 535) and the H.R. 3320 legislation. Now that the bills passed in the House, they must be passed in the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump to become a law.

The Taiwan Travel Act (H.R. 535) encourages diplomatic visits between U.S. and Taiwan officials at all levels. The H.R. 3320 legislation is a bill ‘to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization, and for other purposes.’

Congressman Steve Chabot said that 80 members of Congress in total signed the Taiwan Travel Act, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Ed Royce, reported CNA. Chairman Royce congratulated the House on this achievement, saying:

“The U.S. and Taiwan share a commitment to democracy, rule of law and human rights, and Taiwan’s successes serve as an example of what can be built based on these principles. We should be supporting countries that have achieved democracy to serve as inspiration for these values across the Asia Pacific.”

According to a more detailed summary of the Taiwan Travel Act provided by Congress,

“This bill states that it should be U.S. policy to: (1) allow officials at all levels of the U.S. government to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts; (2) permit high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the United States under respectful conditions and to meet with U.S. officials, including officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense; and (3) encourage the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and any other instrumentality established by Taiwan, to conduct business in the United States.”

This bill is similar to others proposed to the House in 2016.

In 1979, Washington shifted diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan today, to China, and ever since the U.S. has maintained unofficial diplomatic ties with Taiwan and a self-imposed restriction on high-level visits with Taiwan.

The President of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), Peter Chen (陳正意), said that the unanimous passing of the Taiwan Travel Act in the House is an important milestone. FAPA, an NGO in Washington D.C., is now pressuring the Senate to guarantee that the bill becomes a law as soon as possible.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, Chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council, told CNA that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports the House passage of the bill and believes it can further improve US-Taiwan relations and help Washington policymakers have better knowledge of the situation in Taiwan through visits.