Taiwan-U.S. Relations

Taiwan-US Relations

The Republic of China (Taiwan) and the United States have always had a strong partnership, built on the 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 legitimate 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 treaty established the ROC as part of the collective security system in the East Asian and Pacific region. As Taiwan's security was gradually strengthened, its economy also 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.

US policy towards the ROC underwent a major change in 1972 when President Richard Nixon began to normalize US 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. Despite the change in diplomatic recognition, the long-standing friendship between the peoples of the US and the ROC has been sustained, and the two countries have sought to maintain close commercial, cultural and other substantive ties. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), signed into law on April 10, 1979 by then-US President Jimmy Carter, has endured to date as the cornerstone of the vital relationship between Taiwan and the United States.

The enactment of the TRA reaffirmed Taiwan as an important strategic partner of the United States and a linchpin of US policy in Asia. It clearly states that US political, security and economic interests are linked to peace and stability in the Western Pacific area. It stipulates that the United States will supply Taiwan with necessary defense articles so that Taiwan can maintain sufficient self-defense capability. 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 US 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 US 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 both countries 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 maintains offices in Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. 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 currently with 11 other offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. 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), while the names of all other CCNAA offices in the United States were changed to "Taipei Economic and Cultural Office" (TECO). In June 2019, the CCNAA Headquarters for TECRO in Taiwan was renamed as "Taiwan Council for US Affairs (TCUSA)" to better reflect its role.

Besides the TRA, the US offered “six assurances” to Taiwan during the Reagan administration in 1982. 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 solid foundation for US policy toward Taiwan, which helped to ensure Taiwan’s security and prosperity and allowed bilateral relations to prosper in the decades that followed.

Following the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review conducted by the Clinton administration, we have seen improvements in Taiwan-US bilateral relations. In addition to the name change for Taiwan's representative offices in the United States, restrictions on travels and meetings were relaxed, so US senior officials responsible for economic and technical affairs can travel to Taiwan and to meet with Taiwan visitors to the US. The US also agreed to allow Taiwan’s presidents to make transit stops in the United States en route to other countries.

Furthermore, the US 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 US support, Taiwan has participated in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer from 2009-2016. The U.S is also advocating for Taiwan’s participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), INTERPOL, and other key international organizations.

In order to enhance bilateral cooperation, senior officials from Taiwan regularly visit the U.S. Likewise, more and more senior US officials have visited Taiwan in recent years, including Administrator of the US 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 Representatives Demetrios Marantis and Robert Holleyman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Marcus Jadotte, Acting Assistant Secretary of Treasury for International Markets Mitchell Silk, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, and Assistant Secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce also visited Taiwan in recent years. In August, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Service Alex Azar II led a delegation to visit Taiwan. Secretary Azar is the highest ranking member of U.S. Cabinet to visit Taiwan since 1979.

Furthermore, in international venues like the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings, Taiwan's representatives and special envoys also met with their American counterparts, including a meeting between Morris Chang and Vice President Mike Pence in 2018.

Thanks to shared commitment and mutual trust, we have seen major progress in our bilateral relations in recent years. Since 2011, TECRO has hosted Taiwan’s annual National Day reception at the historic Twin Oaks Estate, first time since the diplomatic switch in 1979. In February 2013, Taiwan and the US signed a new Privilege, Exemption and Immunity Agreement that provided diplomats of both countries with more appropriate courtesies and sounder legal protections. In October 2012, under the Obama administration, Taiwan was designated as a member of the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), making Taiwan the 37th member of the VWP. Additionally, among the 50 states of the US, Taiwan has signed reciprocal drivers license agreements with 33 states mutually recognizing the validity of each others drivers license. In November 2017, Taiwan joined the US Global Entry Program, which provides even more convenience to travelers and further enhances people-to-people exchanges between Taiwan and the US.

Taiwan and the US are dedicated to building a comprehensive, durable and mutually beneficial partnership. In 2012, the two countries jointly launched the Pacific Islands Leadership Program (PILP), to cultivate leaders of tomorrow and promote long-term prosperity for the region. Such partnership is also highlighted by cooperative efforts of Taiwan and the US in response to pressing issues ranging from the Ebola and MERS epidemics to the humanitarian refugee crisis in the Middle East. In June 2015, both sides signed an MOU to establish the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) to institutionalize such collaboration. Under the framework, Taiwan and the US are working together to expand their already robust cooperation to address global challenges in such areas as public health, energy efficiency, media literacy, HA/DR womens empowerment, etc. In March 2019, foreign minister Joseph Wu welcomed the AIT/T director Brent Christensen to MOFA to jointly launched the “Indo-Pacific Democratic Governance Consultations” to explore ways to pursue joint projects in the region to assist countries seeking to address governance challenges and promote shared values.

Through different administrations, the US Congress has passed numerous bills and resolutions and has 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 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the annual World Health Assembly (WHA). The Taiwan Travel Act enacted in 2018 urges the US government to encourage more mutual official exchanges between the US and Taiwan at all levels, marking another significant step forward.

The Congressional Taiwan Caucus, established in April 2002, currently boasts over 200 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 US congress, demonstrating their strong support for the people of Taiwan.

To further promote Taiwan-US relations, the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, established in April 2002, boasts more than 200 House members from both the Republican and Democratic parties. The Senate Taiwan Caucus, established in September 2003, consists of more than 30 Senators. Both caucuses are among the largest and most active in the US Congress, demonstrating their strong support for the people of Taiwan.

In order to safeguard Taiwan’s national security, and achieve the objective of deterring aggression and preventing war beside purchasing arms form the US, Taipei will continue working with US counterparts to strengthen the indigenous defense industrial base. Primary areas of focus include transforming air defense 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 enhancing regional security.

Bilateral trade in goods between the US and Taiwan reached US$81 billion in 2019; Taiwan's imports from the US amounted to US$34.8 billion, while Taiwan's exports to the US was US$46.2 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 US agricultural goods in the same year.

As of December 2019, Taiwan-affiliated firms have invested US$47 billion in the United States. The US is the largest foreign destination of Taiwan’s investments (excluding mainland China and British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean), while US investment in Taiwan has reached a value of US$24.6 billion. The United States is the 2nd largest source of foreign investments in Taiwan (behind only the Netherlands and excluding British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean).

Taiwan has always worked very closely with the United States in the field of education. For 4 consecutive years, Taiwan has been the 7th largest source of international students in the US. In the 2018-2019 school year, a total of 23,369 students from Taiwan studied in colleges and universities in the United States, contributing USD$902 million to the US economy, while 3,769 American students were enrolled in Taiwan universities, including 432 degree students and 2,548 language students. Since 2005, Taiwan has signed 13 MOUs, relating to educational cooperation with the states of California, Michigan, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Maine, Florida, Maryland, and Virginia, while inter-university links between the US and Taiwan constitute 3,433 out of a total of 20,993 agreements around the globe, which have been signed between 503 institutions from the US and 114 from Taiwan. Taiwan has provided the Huayu (Mandarin) Enrichment Scholarship (HES), Taiwan Scholarship, Taiwan Studies Initiatives, Visiting Scholar Program and Taiwan Fellowship Program to encourage US-Taiwan students/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 science, meteorology, nuclear energy, environmental conservation, space science, bio-medical and life sciences, etc. As of June 2019, there had been over 260 bilateral collaborative agreements/MOUs signed in the effort to promote science and technology.

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 aim to provide significantly more reliable weather forecasts. On September 19, 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden announced that the US had signed ten new MOUs with partners, including Taiwan, 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, the then-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, California. This makes Taiwan the first Asian country with a Silicon Valley outpost designed to stimulate the linkages between talent, entrepreneurs and venture capital in Taiwan and the US to build a long term partnership.

On August 24, 2017, FORMOSAT-5 was launched by SpaceX Falcon9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. FORMOSAT-5 is the first space program in which Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO) assumed full responsibility for the complete satellite system engineering design including payloads.

The International Environmental Partnership (IEP), initiated in 2014, was co-founded by Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration and US Environmental Protection Agency, facilitating cooperation among countries in regional and international domains. It includes projects such as International E-waste Management Network (IEMN), Air Quality Management, Asia Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network (APMMN), Global Environmental Education Partnership (GEEP), etc. IEP continued into its second phase from 2017 to 2019, with children’s environmental health added to the program. As of 2019, more than 40 countries have engaged in 80 activities held worldwide, successfully building an experience-sharing platform for environmental issues.

On June 25, 2019, US-Taiwan collaborative satellites of the FORMOSAT-7/COSMIC-2 program were successfully launched from the former US space shuttle launch site, LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center. It is the largest ever significant collaboration in the space science and technology cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.

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