On April 10 we will mark the 35th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), an important piece of legislation that has served as the cornerstone of the strong relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.
A year into my tenure on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, having just returned from a congressional delegation to Taiwan and four other Asia-Pacific countries, I appreciate the importance of our work with the small island nation of Taiwan as we increase our strategic and economic focus on this region of the world.
Taiwan is a successful new democracy. In 1996, Taiwan held its first direct, democratic presidential election since the country’s founding in 1912. The country’s evolution into a free society that espouses the values of free elections, human rights, free markets and the rule of law is a significant one in which the U.S. has played an important role.
Taiwan is a place where leaders dream big and then do the hard work to make those dreams a reality. It’s a beautiful place where modern advances in architecture and transportation meet traditional culture. On my recent trip, I was amazed by Taipei 101, an icon of modern architecture, and the world-class bullet train that moves locals and tourists alike at top speeds across the island. When our congressional delegation departed Taiwan, we left with the sense that the modern nation is full of hope and ideas for the future.
Beginning with passage of the TRA, Congress has been at the forefront of bilateral relations with the island nation, playing a key part in ensuring Taiwan’s military needs are addressed and assisting Taiwan with its democratic and economic development.
Congress has also played a critical role in assisting Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly and facilitating its entrance into the Visa Waiver Program. In fact, just last July, Congress passed and the president signed into law H.R. 1151. The bill, authored by Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) of the Foreign Affairs Committee and of which I am a co-sponsor, directs the secretary of State to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Shortly after passage, the ICAO invited Taiwan’s aviation authorities to participate in the 38th ICAO Assembly in September. It was the first time Taiwan had participated in an ICAO Assembly since 1971. Such sustained congressional support is essential in the absence of formal diplomatic relations with the administration.
America’s commitment to Taiwan’s safety and security is a hallmark of the TRA. By helping Taiwan with its self-defense needs, we encourage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which has fostered prosperity and economic growth in the region.
I would also like to recognize Ambassador King Pu-tsung, Taiwan’s former chief envoy to the United States. Ambassador King served as the 13th Representative to the United States since the TRA was signed into law, and recently left the U.S. to become the secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council.
Over the last year and a half, King has fostered the U.S.-Taiwan relationship during an extremely successful era, and his hard work and commitment to maintaining Taiwan’s strong relationship with members of Congress is to be commended. Like many of my colleagues, over the last 18 months I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet Ambassador King and work closely with him. I congratulate him on his new appointment. I wish him success in his new role as the chief national security adviser to Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou.
I look forward to continued collaboration with Ambassador King and his successor in the months and years ahead, as we continue to enhance our bilateral relationship with Taiwan.
Messer has represented Indiana’s 6th Congressional District since 2013. He sits on the Budget; the Education and the Workforce; and the Foreign Affairs committees. He is also president of the GOP freshman class.