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Taiwan-U.S. Relations

The Republic of China (Taiwan) and the United States have always had a strong partnership, built on a foundation of cooperation and trust. The two countries were close allies during World War II. After the ROC government relocated to Taiwan in 1949, the United States continued to recognize the ROC as the sole legal government of China. In the aftermath of the Korean War, given the continued strategic importance of the Taiwan Strait during the Cold War era, the ROC and the United States signed the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty in 1954 to consolidate their military alliance. This action established the ROC as part of the collective security system in the East Asian and Pacific region.

As Taiwan's security gradually strengthened, its economy began to flourish and grow with American economic aid. During this period, the ROC continued to maintain its Security Council and General Assembly seats at the United Nations and in most other major international organizations.

U.S. policy towards the ROC underwent a major change in 1972, after President Richard Nixon began to normalize U.S. relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC). On January 1, 1979, the United States switched diplomatic recognition from the ROC to the PRC. Although diplomatic recognition had changed, the long-standing friendship between the peoples of the United States and the ROC has remained, and the two countries have sought to maintain close commercial, cultural and other substantive ties. As a result, on April 10, 1979, then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) into law, which has endured to this day as the cornerstone of the vital relationship between Taiwan and the United States.

The enactment of the TRA reaffirmed Taiwan as an important strategic ally of the United States and a linchpin of U.S. policy in Northeast Asia. It clearly states that U.S. political, security, and economic interests are linked to peace and stability in the Western Pacific. It stipulates that the United States will supply Taiwan with sufficient articles of defense so that Taiwan may provide for its own security. The TRA also states that the United States will consider "any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States." Under the TRA, if such a scenario were to occur, the U.S. President would be obliged to immediately notify Congress so that they may determine an appropriate response together.

In addition to these security elements, the TRA requires that Taiwan be treated as a country under U.S. law. Specifically, the Act declares that "whenever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan." The TRA also enables each country to set up offices in the territory of the other to handle substantive relations between the two sides. As a result, the United States established the American Institute in Taiwan, which is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, and has offices in Taipei and Kaohsiung. For its part, the ROC government established the Coordination Council for North American Affairs (CCNAA), with its main representative office in Washington, D.C., and with 12 other offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Honolulu, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Miami, and Guam. These offices were tasked with performing most of the functions that had previously been carried out by the ROC embassy and consulates-general. Following the United States' Taiwan Policy Review of 1994, the name of the CCNAA office in Washington, D.C. was changed to the "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office" (TECRO), and the name of each of the twelve other CCNAA offices in the United States were changed to "Taipei Economic and Cultural Office" (TECO).

Besides the TRA, the U.S. Government, through President Ronald Reagan, offered “six assurances” to Taiwan in 1982 before signing the third joint communiqué with the PRC. The six assurances ensure that the United States:

1. has not agreed to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan;

2. has not agreed to hold prior consultations with the PRC on arms sales to Taiwan;

3. will not play any mediation role between Taipei and Beijing;

4. has not agreed to revise the Taiwan Relations Act;

5. has not altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan;

6. will not exert pressure on Taiwan to negotiate with the PRC.

The “six assurances,” along with the TRA, laid a basis for U.S. policy toward Taiwan, thus consolidating Taiwan’s security and prosperity in the following decades.

While the United States and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic ties today, relations between the two sides have continued to strengthen in recent decades. For many U.S. states, Taiwan continues to be an important trading partner. California-Taiwan trade alone is more substantial than trade between some countries. The close relationship between Taiwan and the United States has led to major progress in bilateral interaction, matters of international security, trade and investment, cultural exchange and education, as well as in other areas of mutual interest.

In accordance with the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review conducted by the Clinton administration, the framework for Taiwan-U.S. relations was improved in order to further accommodate the growth of mutually beneficial exchanges. In addition to approving the change in name for Taiwan's representative offices in the United States, limitations on visiting officials were relaxed in order to permit high-ranking U.S. officials concerned with trade and other technical matters to visit Taiwan and to meet with their counterparts and other senior officials. The U.S. also agreed to allow high-ranking government leaders from Taiwan to make necessary transits through the United States en route to other countries.
Furthermore, the U.S. continues to support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement and to help “Taiwan’s voice be heard” in international organizations where statehood is required. With staunch U.S. support, Taiwan has participated in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer since 2009. The U.S is also helping Taiwan participate in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), INTERPOL, and other international organizations. Joined by other U.S. senior official, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the U.S. will continue to support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations at a congressional hearing on April 28, 2016.

In order to further enhance bilateral exchanges, many ranking U.S. officials, including Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez, Deputy U. S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, Deputy U. S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Marcus Jadotte, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and Pacific Affairs and Senior Official for APEC Matthew Mathews visited Taiwan in recent years. During the past several years at APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings, Taiwan's Representative, former Vice President Vincent Siew, had interactions with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

As a means of furthering Taiwan-U.S. engagement, the Obama administration designated Taiwan as a member of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in October 2012, which further promoted people-to-people exchanges between Taiwan and the U.S. Taiwan is the 37th member of the VWP and the only VWP member that does not have diplomatic relations with the U.S. In addition, TECRO in the U.S. has held National Day receptions at the historic Twin Oaks Estate since 2011, the year when TECRO celebrated the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China. It was the first time in 32 years TECRO was able to host a National Day reception at the Twin Oaks. Furthermore, Taiwan and the U.S. signed a new Privilege, Exemption and Immunity Agreement in February 2013, which replaced an outdated one and provided diplomats of both countries with sounder legal protections. TECRO staff started to use IDs, driver's licenses, vehicle license plates issued by the Department of State in accordance with the agreement in February, 2015. On April 4, 2016, both sides signed a joint statement to cooperate on an International Expedited Traveler Initiative, which outlines now TECRO and AIT work together to expand U.S. Global Entry program and Taiwan’s E-gate program to include eligible travelers from Taiwan and the U.S.
Taiwan and the U.S. are dedicated to building a comprehensive, durable and mutually beneficial partnership. In 2012, the two countries jointly launched the Pacific Islands Leadership Partnership, and in 2014 the US joined as a founding partner of the Taiwan-initiated International Environmental Partnership program. The partnership is also highlighted by recent cooperative efforts of Taiwan and the US in response to pressing issues ranging from the Ebola and MERS epidemic to the humanitarian refugee crisis in Middle East. Both sides decided to institutionalize such collaboration by signing a MOU to establish the Global Cooperation and Training Framework in June 2015. Under the framework, Taiwan and the U.S. are working together to expand their already robust cooperation to address global challenges in such areas as international humanitarian assistance, public health, environmental protection, energy, technology, education and regional development. Taiwan has proved to be a vital partner not just for the US, but for the region. In 2016, Taiwan, for the first time, is included in the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, making it one of the destinations for studying Chinese. This demonstrates that both Taiwan and the U.S. are committed to enhancing the people-to-people exchange.

The U.S. Congress has long been supportive of the people and the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan). In 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), a landmark legislation that today still stands strong as the cornerstone for an enduring and robust Taiwan-U.S. relationship. Through different administrations, the U.S. Congress has passed numerous bills and resolutions and taken concrete actions to support Taiwan. These include recognizing Taiwan's freedom and democracy, authorizing arms sales to Taiwan to maintain its defensive capabilities, and encouraging Taiwan's aspiration to contribute to various international organizations with its meaningful participation, such as Taiwan's efforts in joining the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the triennial Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the annual World Health Assembly (WHA).

To further promote Taiwan-U.S. relations, the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, established in April 2002, boasts 220 House members from both the Republican and Democratic parties. The Senate Taiwan Caucus, established in September 2003, consists of 30 Senators. Both caucuses are among the largest and most active in the U.S. Congress, demonstrating their strong support for the people of Taiwan.

In order to safeguard ROC’s national interests, and achieve the objective of deterring aggression and preventing war. Taiwan will keep working with the U.S. on strengthening the indigenous defense industrial base. Focus on transforming air capabilities, accelerating the indigenous production of submarines and protecting the digital territory.

With adequate deterrent capability, Taiwan can play an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and promoting regional security.

Bilateral trade in goods between the U.S. and Taiwan in 2016 amounted to US$ 66.1 billion. Taiwan's imports from the U.S. amounted to US$26.7 billion, while Taiwan's exports to the U.S. amounted to US$39.3 billion. Taiwan was the United States' 10th largest trading partner, its 14th largest export market, and 13th largest source of imports. Taiwan was also the 7th largest export destination of U.S. agricultural goods in 2016.

As of December of 2016, Taiwan’s investment in the United States has accumulated to a value of US$25.8 billion. The U.S. is the largest destination of Taiwan’s investments in foreign countries (excluded mainland China). U.S. investment in Taiwan has accumulated to a value of US$23.77 billion. The United States is the second-largest source of foreign investments in Taiwan (only behind the Netherlands).

Taiwan has always worked very closely with the United States in the field of education. In 2015, a total of 20,993 students from Taiwan were studying in colleges and universities in the United States, while 3,806 U.S. students were enrolled in Taiwan universities, including 692 degree students and 2,462 language students. Since 2005, Taiwan has signed 19 Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) regarding educational cooperation with the American states of California, Michigan, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Maine, Florida, Texas, Maryland, Utah, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, and Oklahoma. Our inter-university links between the U.S. and Taiwan include 2,383 out of a total of 13,919 agreements around the globe, which have been signed between 763 institutions from the U.S. and 156 from Taiwan. Taiwan has provided the Huayu (Mandarin) Enrichment Scholarship (HES), Taiwan Scholarship, Taiwan Visiting Scholar Program and Taiwan Fellowship Program to encourage a U.S.-Taiwan scholars exchange as well as study in Taiwan. By offering these education linkages and extending partnership ties between the United States and Taiwan, we hope to encourage international academic cooperation for the mutual benefit and development of human resources and inter-institutional collaboration.

The science and technology cooperation between Taiwan and the United States includes areas of basic and cutting-edge research, such as physics, atmospheric sciences, meteorology, nuclear energy, environmental conservation, space science, bio- medical and life sciences, etc. As of December 2016, there have been over two hundred bilateral collaborative agreements/MOUs signed in the effort to promote S&T cooperation.

The collaboration partners include the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Department of Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Regulatory Commission (NRC), US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), National Labs, and research universities. The collaboration takes the form of short visits, joint seminars/workshops/conferences, research projects, and exchange of R&D information.

Notable projects include the large scale scientific collaborative contribution to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) program, FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC, and FORMOSAT-7/ COSMIC-2, which aims to provide much more reliable weather forecasts. On September 19, 2016, Vice President Biden announced that the U.S. had signed ten new MOUs with partners, including Taiwan through AIT-TECRO, as part of the Cancer Moonshot collaboration at his “2016 Social Good Summit” speech. The collaboration will make available the international dataset and facilitate the collaboration in the field of clinical proteogenomic studies and the translation to cancer care. On December 2, 2016, Assistant Director Dr. Roger Wakimoto of the National Science Foundation (NSF) visited Taiwan to co-host the Science and Technology collaborative meeting between NSF and the Ministry of Science and Technology. In June 2015, the Taiwan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) was launched in Santa Clara, Calif. It makes Taiwan the first Asian country with a Silicon Valley outpost designed to stimulate the connection of talents, entrepreneurs, and venture capital between Taiwan and the U.S. to build a long term partnership.

In summary, Taiwan is a fully-fledged democracy that shares with the United States such common values as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, rule of law, and a market-based economy. It is also an important trading partner and export market for the U.S. in almost every major sector. Over the years, Taiwan and the United States have maintained a strong friendship and close partnership. Based on a common history of shared interests and a strong commitment to common values, the Taiwan-U.S. relationship will continue to flourish well into the future.