Last updated: 09/21/2015
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, 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;
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 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 and Deputy U. S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, and Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, visited Taiwan in recent years. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Taiwan's Leader's Representative former Vice President Vicent Siew held successful bilateral meetings at the APEC summit in 2013 and 2014.
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. 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.
Taiwan and the U.S. are dedicated to building a comprehensive, durable and mutually beneficial partnership. Both sides signed 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. 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. Taiwan has proved to be a vital partner not just for the US, but for the region.
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.
On December 10, 2014, the U.S. Congress passed S. 1683, the Naval Vessel Transfer Act, to authorize President Obama to transfer up to four excess U.S. Navy Perry-class frigates to the Republic of China. The Act was signed by President Obama on December 18, 2014, and became the U.S. Public Law No. 113-276.
The people and the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) appreciate the staunch support of the Congress of the United States so much. The U.S. Congress has passed resolutions, sent letters, and urged U.S. administrations in various ways to support Taiwan’s democratization process, 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). Taiwan’s bid for observer status in the ICAO received tremendous support from the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. In 2013, S 579 and H.R. 1151 were passed respectively, the supporting Taiwan to obtain observer status at the triennial ICAO Assembly. In 2014, the year of TRA 35th anniversary, the U.S. Senate approved a bill authorizing the sale of four frigates to Taiwan to enhance Taiwan's defense capability.
To further promote U.S. relations with Taiwan, the Congressional Taiwan Caucus was established in April 2002. As of September 2015, the caucus currently boasts 181 members of the House of Representatives. The Senate Taiwan Caucus was established in September 2003. As of September 2015, it boasts 27 members of the Senate. Both of these caucuses are among the largest and most active in the U.S. Congress.
Bilateral trade in goods and services between the U.S. and Taiwan in 2014 amounted to US$ 67.4 billion. Taiwan imports from the U.S. amounted to US$26.8 billion in 2014, while Taiwan exports to the U.S. amounted to US$40.6 billion. The U.S. deficit of goods traded with Taiwan was US$ 13.7 billion in 2014. Taiwan was the United States' 10th largest trading partner, its 14th largest export market, and 12th largest source of imports. Taiwan is also the 8th largest export destination of U.S. agricultural goods in 2014.
As of July of 2015, Taiwan’s investments in the United States have accumulated to a value of US$13.93 billion. The U.S. is the second-largest destination of Taiwan’s investments in foreign countries. U.S. investments in Taiwan have accumulated to a value of US$22.65 billion. The United States is the largest source of foreign investments in Taiwan.
Taiwan has always worked very closely with the United States in the field of education. In 2014, a total of 21,266 students from Taiwan were studying in colleges and universities in the United States, while 915 U.S. students were enrolled in Taiwan universities. 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 physics, atmospheric sciences, meteorology, nuclear energy, environmental conservation, space science, and medical and life sciences. As of August 2015, there have been a total of 228 bilateral collaborative agreements/MOUs signed for science and technology cooperation, with 58 agreements/MOUs outstanding. Notable projects include the ongoing space collaboration (COSMIC-2/FORMOSAT-7) that aims to provide a much more reliable weather forecast and the large scale scientific collaborative contribution to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) program. Also, Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has partnered with the U.S. EPA for 22 years with the collaborative mechanism from transferring existing S&T policies and technologies to focus on important environmental protection issues. In April 2014, the U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited Taiwan and witnessed the launch of the International Environmental Partnership Program (IEP), which advances the bilateral cooperation to the entire Asia-Pacific region. Until now, the IEP has planned and carried out dozens of activities with 28 participating countries and covered a wide range of themes such as Air Quality Monitoring, Eco-Campus, Cities Clean Air Partnership, and E-waste Management just to name a few. In August 2015, the first conference of the IEP was held in Washington, D.C. Nearly 100 participants from 12 countries attended to share best practices and inspire new thinking, synergizing their past efforts. The IEP has made a visible difference in communities in Asia, North America, Latin America, and Africa. In addition to the notable collaborative programs above, the academic collaboration partners include the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology, national laboratories (Argonne National Lab., Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and Brookhaven National Lab) and many research intensive universities. Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology annually funded numerous grants to encourage Taiwan researchers to conduct research exchange, co-host bilateral workshops, and work on the joint research projects with U.S. researchers.
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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