TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Friday (Aug. 6) morning in a move to strengthen support for Taiwan to participate in the World Health Organization (WHO).
The bill states that the COVID-19 pandemic transcends all borders and that Taiwan should not be excluded from the global health body and calls on the U.S. government to formulate strategies to assist the East Asian nation to regain WHO observer status.
The proposed legislation says Taiwan serves as a leading model for global health governance and has contributed more than US$6 billion in international medical and humanitarian aid efforts to over 80 countries since 1996. Last year, after successfully suppressing the spread of COVID within its borders, Taiwan generously donated millions of pieces of personal protective equipment and testing reagents to countries in need, the bill points out.
Taiwan began its efforts to join the WHO in 1997 and with U.S. support had participated in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer from 2009-2017 due to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party, per the bill.
The bill was first proposed in March by Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Bob Menendez, and passed the committee unanimously on Wednesday, July 28 before smoothly passing through the Senate Council on Friday. It is now due to be reviewed by the House of Representatives, and, if passed, will be submitted to Biden to be signed into law.
“Taiwan is an important partner to the United States, and it is critical that the administration improve its strategy to help Taiwan obtain observer status,” Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Bloomberg Government.
The proposed legislation would update a 2004 law by requiring the secretary of state to report to Congress on “changes and improvements” the State Department has made in its strategy to reengage Taiwan in international health meetings, per Bloomberg.
The bill to assist Taiwan regain its status as a WHA observer has been several years in the making. The initial version was first proposed in July 2017 by the then-Republican Representative Ted Yoho. Although it was passed by the House of Representatives at that time, it did not go any further, despite senators friendly to Taiwan attempting to resubmit it before congress in 2019, they were unable to make it happen at the time, per CNA.
Yet, after the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc around the globe last year, the push for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA gained renewed momentum. After years of hard work by various members of Congress, the bill is expected to pass without a hitch.