US Senate committee passes TAIPEI Act in wake of China's poaching of allies

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approves TAIPEI ACT after China poaches Solomon Islands, Kiribati

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U.S. and Taiwan flags. (Image from Taiwan Today)

U.S. and Taiwan flags. (Image from Taiwan Today)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Wednesday (Sept. 25) passed a draft bill designed to counter China's bullying of Taiwan in the international arena and the poaching of its diplomatic allies by downgrading relations and cutting aid to countries that kowtow to Beijing's demands.

On Wednesday, the Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, or the TAIPEI Act. The bill is an American strategy to engage with governments around the world that support Taiwan's diplomatic recognition while downgrading ties with countries that toe the Chinese Communist Party line on Taiwan and suspending or altering U.S. foreign assistance to such nations.

During the committee meeting, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner said that China constantly threatens Taiwan's democracy and that the U.S. "should use every tool to support Taiwan’s standing on the international stage." Gardner described the act as a "whole-of-government approach" to send a clear signal to the world "that there will be consequences for supporting Chinese actions that undermine Taiwan."

Gardner said that China's poaching of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, such as the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, and bullying poses a "major threat" to Taiwan's democracy. Gardner emphasized that if the U.S. does not stand up to China on Taiwan's behalf, what is happening now in Hong Kong is a glimpse into Taiwan's future.

The bill opens by mentioning that since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016, China has lured seven diplomatic allies away from Taiwan and that the Taiwan Relations Act of 2019 requires the U.S. to take steps to address this. The draft then calls on the secretary of state to submit a report to Congress on steps taken by the U.S. to "reaffirm and strengthen Taiwan's international alliances around the world" within 90 days after the law's passage and every 180 days thereafter.

If passed, the act would require the State Department to induce governments that are allies of Taiwan to maintain diplomatic ties with the country and to identify those at risk of severing relations. The bill then calls for supplementing the diplomatic presence in the U.S. of countries that support Taiwan and reducing their diplomatic footprint if they side with Beijing.

The act would also give the secretary of state the power to expand, reduce, or terminate U.S. aid to countries depending on whether they improve, worsen, or sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The draft law then calls for increased U.S. support of Taiwan's participation in international organizations either as a member or observer.

Additionally, Gardner proposed an amendment to the bill requiring the U.S. to initiate bilateral trade negotiations with Taiwan with the goal of signing a free trade agreement (FTA) that is economically mutually beneficial, protects U.S. workers and benefits U.S. exporters. The committee agreed to adopt the amendment.

The bill will be sent to the Senate floor for consideration, and it will also need to be passed by the House of Representatives before it can be signed into law by the president. In an interview with CNA, Gardner said that the bill has the support of the Trump administration.