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 Republic of China (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 the ROC 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, Kansas City, 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;
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 the ROC 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 ROC 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. agreed to support Taiwan’s entry into international organizations for which statehood is not a membership requirement and to help “Taiwan’s voice be heard” in international organizations for which statehood is required. With staunch U.S. support, Taiwan has continued to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer since 2009. The U.S is also helping Taiwan participate as an observer in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other international organizations. In September 2008, the U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations posted a statement on its official website that publicly supports Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the specialized agencies of the U.N.
In order to further enhance bilateral exchanges, many ranking U.S. officials, including USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez and Deputy U. S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, visited Taiwan in the past couple of years. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Taiwan’s former Vice President Dr. Lien Chan, in their capacities as representatives of their respective leaders, held a successful bilateral meeting at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, in September 2012.
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 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.
To build a “Hard ROC” defensive force for deterring acts leading to conflicts and for preventing war, President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly stressed the importance of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and has called upon the United States to support Taiwan in acquiring necessary weapons and equipment. In 2008, 2010 and 2011, the U.S. agreed on 14 arms sale programs – priced at US$18 billion – to Taiwan.
Concerning the procurement of advanced weaponry, Taiwan will work with the U.S. and assess its defense needs and procure advanced weapon systems that meet the requirement for future operational needs. Taiwan government will continue to pursue the procurement of fighters more advanced than the retrofitted F-16 A/B in order to enhance its air defense capability. With adequate deterrent capability, Taiwan can play an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and safeguard the security in the region.
The United States Congress has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Since the enactment of the TRA, the support of the U.S. Congress for Taiwan has never faltered. Congress has passed resolutions, sent letters, and urged U.S. administrations in various ways to encourage Taiwan’s democratization, to meet Taiwan’s self-defense needs, and to assist with Taiwan’s bid in participating in international organizations, such as the World Health Assembly (WHA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Congress has also helped to promote trade and cultural exchanges between the United States and Taiwan. For example, Congress has urged the administration to resume Taiwan-U.S. talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), and as a result, the new round of TIFA talks were held in Taipei in March 2013 after a 5-year suspension.
In 2012, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed Concurrent Resolution 17 (S. CON. RES. 17) to support Taiwan’s participation in the ICAO as an observer. This year, the Senate and the House respectively introduced a bill to grant Taiwan’s observership in the ICAO. This is further proof of the staunch support from Congress.
To further promote U.S. relations with Taiwan, the Congressional Taiwan Caucus was established in April 2002. The caucus currently boasts 138 members of the House of Representatives. The 27-member Senate Taiwan Caucus was established in September 2003. Both of these caucuses are among the largest and most active in the U.S. Congress.
Bilateral trade in goods between the U.S. and Taiwan in 2012 amounted to US$63.2 billion. Taiwan imports from the U.S. amounted to US$24.3 in 2012, while Taiwan exports to the U.S. amounted to US$38.8 billion. The U.S. deficit of goods traded with Taiwan was US$14.4 billion in 2012. Taiwan was the United States’ 11th largest trading partner, its 16th largest export market, and 11th largest source of imports. Taiwan is the 7th largest importer of U.S. agricultural goods and, on a per capita basis, Taiwan is the second largest consumer of U.S. agricultural products.
Both countries have also maintained close, robust cooperation in science and technology. Since 1979, more than 207 science and technology agreements have been signed between Taiwan and United States under the TECRO (and its predecessor CCNAA) – AIT framework. Through these agreements, bilateral collaborative research projects cover the areas of natural and life sciences, engineering and applied sciences, and humanities and social sciences. Collaborative partners in the United States include the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NSF-funded universities, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST), and many other research institutions. In 2012, Taiwan’s innovators registered 10,646 patents in the United States, the fifth highest registration rate in the world (after the United States, Japan, Germany, and South Korea).
In summary, the Republic of China (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 United States in almost every major sector. Over the years, the citizens of the Republic of China (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 ROC-U.S. relationship will continue to flourish well into the future.
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Copyright © 2012 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan)
Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States
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