President Trump signs the Taiwan Travel Act

US President Donald Trump used his presidential signature on March 16 to sign the Taiwan Travel Act into law after it received unanimous support in Congress

File Photo: Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, March 10, 2018 (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On Friday evening March 16 in Washington D.C., U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act into law, which allows for high level visits between leaders of Taiwan and the United States.

The Taiwan Travel Act is a signal of quickly improving ties between the United States and Taiwan, which have not maintained official diplomatic relationships since 1979.

Despite strong opposition voiced from Chinese officials over the past few months, the Taiwan Travel Act has completed its way through the entire legislative process, passing both the House and Senate with unanimous support.

The Bill H.R. 535 was first introduced in January 2017 by Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio. After a year of little action, it finally passed the House and was sent to the Senate on Jan. 9, 2018. It was passed by the Senate a little over a month later on Feb. 28.

There was speculation that the bill would become effective automatically on March 16 after a stipulated period of 15 days, since it was passed with unanimous support.

However, in a clear signal of diplomatic support for Taiwan, President Trump chose to give the bill his attention on March 16, and express his direct support for the measure with his presidential signature.

The Act is not binding, meaning it does demand that high level officials of the two governments must meet, however it is now within the legal purview of officials from the executive branch of the U.S. government to visit Taiwan or invite Taiwan’s leaders to Washington for official diplomatic meetings, if they choose to do so.

An official statement from Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) expressed the government's sincerest thanks for the goodwill and friendship that the United States has shown to Taiwan over the years. With the Taiwan Travel Act, MOFA says the two countries will continue to strengthen their friendly and mutually beneficial ties.

While deepening cooperation at all levels, MOFA pledges that Taiwan will uphold the principles of mutual trust, and reciprocity, to maintain a robust and active partnership for the peace and stability of the region.

The Taiwan Travel Act which "encourages visits between officials of the United States and Taiwan at all levels" is certain to provoke an angry response from Beijing; many scholars have warned that Taiwan should be cautious in the wake of Trump signing the Travel Act.

With the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, Taiwan will find it much easier to coordinate trade and security policies with one of its most important allies.

Trump’s passage of the Taiwan Travel Act also comes just a few months ahead of the opening of the new location for the American Institute in Taiwan, which will serve as a visible and very suitable symbol for the upgraded diplomatic relationship signaled by the Taiwan Travel Act.