Sunday, January 27, 2013
Taiwan Policy Act of 2013 brought to committee in the United States Congress
United States Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida proposed the Taiwan Policy Act of 2013 to Congress on Friday. Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican and former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, looked to have a vote on a similar bill in 2012 (House Resolution 2918-Taiwan Policy Act of 2011), but was never moved out of committee, as election year politics stalled most new legislation in the house for nearly the entire year.
The primary purpose of the bill is to strengthen the relationship between Taiwan and the United States by introducing a number of new measures that would enhance military, diplomatic, and economic links between the two countries, as well as supporting the enhancement of Taiwan's "international space". Although the full text of the bill has not yet been transferred by the government printing office to the Library of Congress for official release, some of the known provisions in the bill include the following:
*Ceasing restrictions that currently limit Taiwanese leaders from meeting high level officials from the executive level branches of the United States government
*The authorization of the sale of F-16 C/D block fighter jets to Taiwan
*The transfer of decommissioned guided missile frigates to Taiwan, a practice that is permitted under the Navy Inactive Ship Program (PMS 333), in which U.S. Navy ships can be transferred to friendly countries. All ship transfers that include vessels under 20 years old must be approved by Congress.
*Some form of an extradition treaty between the U.S. and Taiwan
The following are parts of H.R. 2918 from 2011 that will likely be included in some form:
*Negotiation of a free trade agreement
*Annual Report on defense transfers to Taiwan from the President to Congress stating the decision to approve or deny all Taiwanese weapon sale requests
*Support for Taiwan's participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
*Requirement for Senate confirmation of an individual appointed to serve as the director of the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT)
*Allowing the Taipei Economic and Cultural Economic Office (TECRO) to display its national flag on its premises, and to likewise grant the same right to AIT offices in Taiwan.
The probability of the bill moving through the Congressional gauntlet in its entirety and being signed into law is highly improbable (currently govtrack.us has a prognosis of the bill having a 10% chance of moving past the congressional committee, and a 2% chance of being signed into law), however the bill can be beneficial for Taiwan in 2 major ways if it does not.
First, there can be a number of aspects of this bill that could be passed separately, as the visa waiver portion of H.R. 2918 did last year. The inclusion of the F-16 C/D sale could also once again raise the possibility of Congress voting to approve the sale, which is likely needed before an official letter of request (LOR) is sent by Taipei, as the Ma Administration would want some sort of political promise from Washington before a letter is once again sent from Taiwan and rejected, causing embarrassment for the President.
Secondly, if the bill passes committee and voted upon, members of the House would have their votes on record, allowing advocates for strengthening the US-Taiwan relationship to perhaps see which members in Congress share their views, and allow them to perhaps focus efforts on advocating future Taiwan relevant legislation to those members.