U.S. House committee approves bill to back Taiwan's WHO bid

03/26/2021 05:32 PM
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WHO headquarters in Geneva. CNA file photo
WHO headquarters in Geneva. CNA file photo

Washington, March 25 (CNA) The Foreign Affairs Committee in the United States House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill that seeks to mandate U.S. assistance to Taiwan in its bid to regain observer status in the World Health Organization (WHO).

The draft bill, introduced by Democrat Brad Sherman and Republican Young Kim on Feb. 18, won unanimous support in an oral voting session, following supportive speeches by eight members of the committee.

According to the draft, the U.S. secretary of state will be required to develop a strategy to help Taiwan return to the WHO as an observer.

In the event that the efforts do not succeed at the annual meeting of the WHO's policy-making body the World Health Assembly (WHA), the U.S. secretary of state will be asked to revise and improve the strategy, the bill says.

At Thursday hearing, the ranking member of the committee, Republican Michael McCaul, said Taiwan had alerted the Chinese Communist Party and the WHO that COVID-19 was transmittable between humans, but the warning went unheeded. Now "we're in the situation we're in," he said.

Republican Albio Sires, who co-chairs the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, said Taiwan was a leader in global health, as evidenced by its handling of the current pandemic.

"Not only has Taiwan managed the pandemic at home, it has worked to share equipment and expertise with other nations, including the U.S.," Sires said.

He expressed gratitude for Taiwan's friendship, which he said was manifested in the early days of the pandemic when his home state of New Jersey was hard hit.

When personal protective equipment was scarce, Taiwan was sending regular shipments of masks to the U.S., Sires said.

"By regaining observer status in the WHO, Taiwan will help other nations that are struggling with this pandemic," he said. "It is in the best global interest to have Taiwan regain observer status in the World Health Organization, so that other nations can learn from Taiwan's success in battling COVID-19."

Sherman pointed out that since 1996, Taiwan has spent more than US$6 billion on international medical and humanitarian aid to more than 80 countries. Because of the Chinese Communist Party, however, Taiwan was excluded from the WHO in 2017, he added.

"This is outrageous as it shuts out Taiwan from important WHO information and makes it more difficult for Taiwan to share the information it has on its successful handling of the virus," Sherman said.

Taiwan began seeking observer status in the WHA in 1997 and was admitted 2009 to 2016, after which its status was revoked due to pressure from China, which does not favor Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Over the past two years, bills aimed at helping to restore Taiwan's observer status in the WHA have been proposed in the U.S. House and Senate but have been shelved.

With the Foreign Affairs Committee's approval of the latest proposed bill in the House, it will now proceed to a plenary session for review. Such a bill will have to be passed in both the House and the Senate and signed by the U.S. president before it can become law.

(By Stacy Hsu and Elizabeth Hsu)

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