US Senate Foreign Committee passes bill supporting Taiwan’s participation in WHA

Dozens of allies and like-minded countries have spoken up in favor of Taiwan at this year’s WHA

Capitol Hill (Source: Pixabay)

Capitol Hill (Source: Pixabay)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday (May 22) that demands the U.S. administration come up with a plan to help Taiwan obtain observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is taking place in Geneva this week.

The bill, coded as S.249, was originally introduced on Jan. 29 by Senator James Inhofe and Robert Menendez, who are co-chairs of the Senate Taiwan Caucus. The legislation directs the secretary of state to develop a strategy for Taiwan to regain observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The bill also provisions that the Department of State should include additional information in its annual reports to Congress regarding Taiwan's participation in the WHA.

In particular, the report should provide “an account of the changes and improvements the secretary of state has made to the United States plan to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the WHA, following any annual meetings of the WHA at which Taiwan did not obtain observer status.”

The bills in favor of Taiwan’s inclusion at the WHA, passed respectively by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, illustrate Congress’ strong bipartisan support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, said Andrew Lee (李憲章), spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), on Thursday (May 23), via a statement.

A similar bill, coded as H.R.353, passed the House of Representatives on Jan. 22.

The Taiwan government is thankful of the U.S. Congress and administration for their support and for making efforts to have other like-minded countries speak out for Taiwan, said the statement.

The Senate bill mentioned that “Taiwan’s engagement in the international community began facing increased resistance from the People’s Republic of China (PRC)” after President Tsai-Ing Wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in 2016.

“Our exclusion is not justified. The global health network should not be limited by the political agenda of a single country,” said Tsai via a recorded video released on Monday (May 20). “Regardless, we remain committed to contributing to global health security,” she said.

Taiwan’s invitation to the WHA was received late in 2016, and since 2017 the island nation has not received an invitation to the WHA, as Beijing continues to ramp up pressure on WHO to block Taiwan’s participation.