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US representatives introduce Taiwan Envoy Act

Bill would require Senate confirmation of AIT director appointments

Capitol Hill (CNA photo)

Capitol Hill (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — With an eye toward further normalizing the relationship between Taiwan and the U.S., a bill dubbed the “Taiwan Envoy Act” has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Brad Sherman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asia and the Pacific, introduced the bill on Monday (Dec. 23). It requires Senate confirmation of any individual appointed to serve as the director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

The AIT was established in 1979 in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, which laid out the foundation for American policy toward Taiwan after the U.S. switched recognition to China four decades ago. The AIT’s Taipei Main Office, despite its being rendered an unofficial organization, has operated as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan ever since.

According to the U.S. Constitution, the president is entitled to appoint ambassadors, but such appointments must first be vetted by the Senate. Currently, the AIT director is appointed by the U.S. secretary of state without Senate approval.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the President shall appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, an individual to serve as the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan,” the bill stipulates. “The Director of the American Institute in Taiwan shall have the rank and status of Ambassador at Large,” it states.

“The Taiwan Strait is still one of the flashpoints in the world. It behooves the Senate to vet this prospective AIT director to the maximum,” said Mike Kuo (郭正光), president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a Washington-based lobby group promoting Taiwan-U.S. relations.

Kuo said the AIT director “acts, talks and walks like an ambassador,” and therefore the appointment of such a post should be confirmed by the Senate. “Congress has the right to oversee US-Taiwan relations through such a confirmation process,” he added.