35th Anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act

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by Damien Tomkins
Taiwan Minister for Agriculture Dr. Bao-Ji Chen (left) and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker sign an agreement in 2011 for corn exports to Taiwan, the largest market for Wisconsin corn exports. Image: Wisconsin Deptment of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

The US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) on March 13-14, 1979, a bill that was signed into law within a month by President Jimmy Carter on April 10. Fast forward 35 years to where the US-Taiwan bilateral relationship is “grounded in history, respect for democracy and human rights, respect for international rules and norms, a growing economic partnership, and enduring security cooperation.” Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in Congressional testimony explained that the US-Taiwan relationship has “developed markedly under the framework of the TRA over the past 35 years, allowing us to cooperate in a wide range of mutually beneficial areas including energy, the environment, and scientific research.”

Taiwan was the 12th largest two-way trading partner in goods for the United States in 2013 and the US has invested over $16 billion in Taiwan and Taiwanese investment in the US exceeded $5 billion as of 2012. The State of Iowa recently celebrated exporting commodities valued at more than $4 billion to Taiwan, and the United States supplies about a quarter of Taiwan’s foods imports. At the inaugural Select USA 2013 Investment Summit designed to connect international businesses with opportunities in the United States, Taiwan sent one of the largest delegations.

Taiwanese students ranked 6th in international students studying in American colleges and universities for the academic year 2012-13, ahead of Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Germany. Taiwan was admitted to the Visa Waiver Program in late 2012, allowing individuals with Taiwanese passports to enter the United States for up to 90 days without requiring a visa, a program that only 36 countries currently qualify for.

Today, Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and since 2009 has been an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA). The United States further supports Taiwan’s participation in international forums that do not require statehood, and supported Taiwan’s invitation to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meeting in late 2013. To that end, the United States welcomes Taiwan’s interest in participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and also resumption of exploratory talks for a Bilateral Trade Agreement according to Kin Moy, Deputy Assistant for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

In his testimony, Mr. Russel concluded by explaining that “Thanks to the Taiwan Relations Act, over the past 35 years, the United States and Taiwan have enjoyed a firm foundation of friendship that we continue to build today.”