TAIPEI Act a loud message of U.S. support for Taiwan: congressman

03/27/2020 04:56 PM
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U.S. Congressman John Curtis
U.S. Congressman John Curtis

Washington, March 26 (CNA) American Congressman John Curtis said the United States' legislation of a bill aimed at shoring up Taiwan's international presence sends a "loud message" of support in the hope that more countries will recognize Taiwan's importance.

The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 was signed into law Thursday by U.S. President Donald Trump, after it was passed unanimously by both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The Act authorizes the U.S. State Department to consider "reducing its economic, security and diplomatic engagements with nations that take serious or significant actions to undermine Taiwan."

"One of the important things is simply the United States saying this, and it's a very loud message that we're not just saying it for an interview, we're putting it into law, and that's no small thing," said Republican House Representative John Curtis in response to CNA's question on how the act will translate into concrete actions.

"We need to see how things turn out, how people treat Taiwan, and carefully gauge when we think people are in violation of our intent how we deal with them," said Curtis, who introduced the bill in the House last October.

The TAIPEI Act was first introduced in the Senate by Cory Gardner in May 2019, and Curtis put forth a similar version in the House on Oct. 18. It is aimed at cementing U.S. support for Taiwan's diplomatic alliances around the world, amid pressure from China.

The Act authorizes the U.S. State Department to consider "reducing its economic, security and diplomatic engagements with nations that take serious or significant actions to undermine Taiwan."

It also calls on the U.S. government to help Taiwan gain participation in international organizations, either as a member or an observer, and to express support for Taiwan's international participation whenever Washington has discussions with Beijing.

It means that U.S. administrative departments will be encouraged to adopt a so-called diplomatic "reward/punishment" program as a countermeasure to China's poaching of Taiwan's diplomatic allies.

On the question of whether countries will now be more likely to "upgrade" their relations with Taiwan, Curtis said that is the goal.

"This is the whole purpose of the bill -- to get people to recognize the importance of Taiwan not just in our relationship but in an international economy," he said. "And we are very hopeful that will have an impact."

Since May 2016 when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office, Taiwan has lost eight diplomatic allies to China, namely Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, the Solomon Islands, and Kiribati.

Currently Taiwan has 15 diplomatic allies, mostly in the Latin American and Caribbean regions.

With the TAIPEI Act signed into law, Taiwan is seen as likely to gain U.S. support for its bid to attend a meeting in May of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, particularly in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Curtis said the U.S. can learn from Taiwan's prevention and containment response and will work with Taiwan to contain the deadly and highly contagious COVID-19.

"We've got to be looking all over the world and seeing what countries that are handling this well, what they're doing, what the procedures are, and how those can be implemented, not just here in the United States, but all over the world," he told CNA.

Curtis, 59, who speaks fluent Mandarin, has been the representative of the 3rd congressional district of Utah since 2017. He has also endorsed the House's "Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019" and was one 47 representatives who last September urged the White House to support Taiwan's bid to join the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

(By Stacy Hsu and Elizabeth Hsu)

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