Trump signs TAIPEI Act

Trump signs act to protect Taiwan against Chinese pressure campaign

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(Wang Ting-yu image)

(Wang Ting-yu image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — President Donald Trump on Thursday (March 26) signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act (TAIPEI Act) into law.

The legislation, which aims to discourage Taiwan's diplomatic allies from cutting ties with the island country due to pressure from Beijing, passed in the House of Representatives on March 4 by a vote of 415 to zero. On March 11, the bill, with slight alterations, also passed in the Senate by unanimous consent.

The TAIPEI Act was first introduced in the Senate by Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Chris Coons (D-DE) last May, with Republican congressman from Utah John Curtis unveiling a similar version in the House in October. In accordance with U.S. legislative procedure, the Senate and House coordinated on passing identical versions of the TAIPEI Act before handing it over to Trump on March 18 to be signed into law.

The act requires 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 with it. The act also calls for the U.S. to supplement its diplomatic presence in countries that support Taiwan and reduce its diplomatic footprint in those that side with Beijing.

The act gives 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 law also calls for increased American support for Taiwan's participation in international organizations either as a member or observer.

The new law describes Taiwan as a "free, democratic, and prosperous nation of 23,000,000 people and an important contributor to peace and stability around the world." It then points out that since President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) election victory in 2016, Beijing has stepped up its efforts to pressure the island nation.

One of the main schemes China has employed to pressure the Tsai administration has been to poach its diplomatic allies. The authors of the act noted that the Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, the Solomon Islands, and Kiribati have all severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan since Tsai took office.

In addition, the legislation requires the U.S. president to provide weapons to Taiwan to meet "existing and likely future threats" from China and to encourage trips by high-level American officials to Taiwan in line with the Taiwan Travel Act. It calls on the president to advocate Taiwan's membership in all international organizations "in which statehood is not a requirement" and to grant Taiwan observer status in international organizations that do have that requirement.

An amendment originally added to the Senate version by Gardner and included in the House version would have required the U.S. to initiate bilateral trade negotiations with Taiwan with the goal of signing a free trade agreement (FTA) that is mutually beneficial, protects American workers, and benefits U.S. exporters. However, the Senate decided to replace the free trade agreement article with one that describes the Taiwan-U.S. trade prospect in less specific terms. "The United States Trade Representative should consult with Congress on opportunities for further strengthening bilateral trade and economic relations between the United States and Taiwan," the amendment expressed.

This is the second pro-Taiwan act Trump has signed into law since 2018's Taiwan Travel Act, which allows for high-level visits between leaders of the two countries. The "Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019," which expresses support for Taiwan and urges it to increase its defense spending, was passed by the House in 2019 but has yet to be voted on by the Senate.