0203: America COMPETES Act, Lai’s Meetings with Harris and Pelosi, Expulsion of PRC Ambassador Urged, Honduras to Keep Taiwan Ties

U.S. House Finalizes a Sweeping Counter-China Bill, Including Provisions to Strengthen Taiwan Ties

On January 25, the House of Representatives finalized sweeping legislation aiming to boost U.S. competition with China and including provisions to strengthen U.S. relations with Taiwan, such as renaming TECRO to TRO (Taiwan Representative Office) and establishing the “Taiwan Fellowship Program.”

The 2,912-page bill, called the “America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act of 2022” or the “America COMPETES Act of 2022” (H.R.4521), includes, among other things, $52 billion to subsidize semiconductor manufacturing and research; provisions to strengthen U.S. relations with Taiwan and the “Quad” (an alliance comprising the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia); and $100 million to counter Chinese government’s censorship and disinformation.

The bill directs the Secretary of State to move toward changing the name of Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the U.S., the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” (TECRO), to the “Taiwan Representative Office” (TRO).

It is U.S. policy to refer to Taiwan as “Taiwan,” not “Taipei” or “Chinese Taipei,” the bill says, adding that the name change would be “reflective of the substantively deepening ties between Taiwan and the United States.”

In a statement, President Joe Biden applauded the House package, saying it would fortify U.S. supply chains and “reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China and the rest of the world for decades to come.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that the bill would “supercharge” investment in chips and boost U.S. manufacturing and research capacity, as well as advancing U.S. competitiveness and leadership abroad, plus many other key provisions.

The new House bill comes more than seven months after the Senate passed its own bipartisan counter-China legislation last June, a $250 billion measure called the “United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021” (S.1260) that focuses on U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and strengthening the U.S. relationship with Taiwan.

The U.S. competition with China and support for Taiwan are rare issues with widespread bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. Various House committees had already passed their own counter-China bills that covered many subjects in the new “America COMPETES Act of 2022,” from boosting supply chain resilience to strengthening relations with Taiwan.

[1] SCMP: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3164736/us-house-finalises-bill-confront-china-including-provisions
[2] Taiwan News: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4422202

Taiwan’s VP Lai Meets U.S. VP Harris in Honduras and Speaks with House Speaker Pelosi Virtually

On January 30, Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai returned home after concluding his successful visit to the United States and Honduras. During his trip, he exchanged brief greetings with his American counterpart, Kamala Harris, and held virtual talks, among others, with several U.S. members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On January 27, Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai (or Lai Ching-te) briefly exchanged greetings with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the Honduran presidential inauguration ceremony, marking the first time the two have interacted publicly.

Commenting on their encounter, Harris told reporters that she had a brief conversation with “the Vice President of Taiwan,” discussing “a common interest” in Central America and Taiwan’s interest in the U.S.’s “root causes strategy” to curb migration, according to her remarks released by the White House.

However, speaking at a news conference, Lai declined to reveal what he and Harris discussed, only saying that he thanked the U.S. vice president for her country’s “rock solid” support of Taiwan.

On January 28, while stopping off in San Francisco on his way back to Taiwan, Vice President Lai held a virtual meeting with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a further show of support from Washington for democratic Taiwan.

The bilateral talks touched on security issues, economic affairs, and shared values, according to Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the U.S., Bi-khim Hsiao, who also attended the meeting.

Hsiao mentioned that Pelosi had expressed concern over the status and security in the Taiwan Strait, recognized Taiwan’s efforts to fight against COVID-19, and voiced her support for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization (WHO). Hsiao added that the conversation between Lai and Pelosi was “relaxed” and “amicable.”

Lai later said via Twitter that he was pleased to meet with the speaker, whom he described as “a champion of human rights and true friend to Taiwan.” “We are committed to working together to strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan partnership,” Lai added.

On January 29, Lai also spoke with U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth by phone and met with some U.S. experts virtually in San Francisco as he wrapped up his trip to the U.S. and Honduras.

In his talk with Sen. Duckworth, Lai thanked her for her support of Taiwan and help in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines. The two also discussed potential areas of cooperation in the future, while Duckworth said the U.S. would not let Taiwan stand alone and expressed an interest in visiting Taiwan again.

Earlier, during his stopover in Los Angeles en route to Honduras, Lai also spoke virtually with over a dozen members of the U.S. Congress. Lai said the U.S. lawmakers praised Taiwan for sticking to democracy and hailed Taiwan for not bowing to China’s military and political pressures.

During the meeting, Lai also conveyed to Washington that Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen attaches great importance to Taiwan-U.S. relations.

Lai is a potential contender to be president in Taiwan’s next election in 2024.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/01/29/2003772265
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202201290011
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/01/31/2003772364
[4] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202201260019

Rep. Tiffany Urges Expulsion of PRC Ambassador, While Rep. Steel Calls for U.S.-Taiwan Diplomatic Ties

U.S. Representative Tom Tiffany (R-WI) has called for the expulsion of the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang after the envoy threatened the United States that a military conflict might arise over Taiwan.

“It is the sense of Congress that the diplomatic credentials of Qin Gang, the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States, be revoked, and he be declared persona non grata and immediately expelled from the United States,” Tiffany said in a draft amendment to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Rules.

Tiffany filed the amendment in response to Qin telling in an interview on January 28 with National Public Radio (NPR) that “if the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely [will] involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict.”

Qin’s remarks also prompted a response from U.S. Representative Michelle Steel (R-CA), who proposed an amendment to the “America COMPETES Act of 2022” that would see the resumption of formal diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Taiwan.

“The United States supports a free and independent Taiwan, and the Chinese Communist Party’s [CCP] continued show of force and violations of human rights cannot be ignored,” she said.

“This continued hostility is why I’ve offered an amendment to the America COMPETES Act that resumes diplomatic relations with Taiwan . . . as a sovereign country and supports Taiwan’s membership in international organizations. We cannot allow the CCP to continue bullying us and our allies,” she said in a news released on January 28.

FAPA also urges NPR to give Taiwan’s side of the story a chance to present the Taiwanese point of view in this highly contentious discussion on U.S.-Taiwan-China relations. FAPA recommends that NPR invites Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu and/or Taiwan’s representative (i.e., de facto ambassador) to the U.S., Bi-khim Hsiao, and provides them an opportunity to present their views.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2022/01/31/2003772379
[2] NPR: https://www.npr.org/2022/01/28/1076246311/chinas-ambassador-to-the-u-s-warns-of-military-conflict-over-taiwan

Honduras Will Maintain Diplomatic Ties with Taiwan: New Honduran Government

Honduras appreciates Taiwan’s support and hopes to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the new Honduran government said, as a reassurance to Taiwan which has worried about losing a diplomatic ally.

On January 26, Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai met with Honduras’ President-elect Xiomara Castro ahead of her inauguration. Castro was presented with a letter from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen during the meeting.

President Tsai expressed the hope that Taiwan and Honduras can work together to strengthen cooperation and that their bilateral relations will continue to flourish and benefit people in both countries, Lai told Castro.

Castro said the assistance provided by Taiwan to Honduras is especially important, even during her husband’s (Manuel Zelaya) presidency, as a lot of projects at the time were only completed with the help of Taiwan. Over the years, the two countries have always cooperated with each other, Castro added, expressing hope that bilateral relations will continue to flourish.

On January 27, during a meeting held after Castro was sworn in, Vice President Lai extended an invitation on behalf of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen to Honduran President Castro to visit Taiwan, and expressed Taiwan’s continued support for the Honduran government as it pushes for economic reforms and combats corruption in the country.

On January 31, Honduras’ new foreign affairs minister, Eduardo Enrique Reina, also said that Honduras will continue strengthening its ties with Taiwan, and that establishing a diplomatic relationship with China is not a priority for Honduran new President Castro, who, however, had spoken of switching diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China in her election campaign.

Reina confirmed that the issue had been evaluated during the transition period after Castro won the election last November. Nonetheless, Castro’s team had concluded that maintaining a good relationship with Taiwan has been more beneficial to Honduras, and decided that for now there was no reason to look for alternatives.

Honduras is one of 14 countries still maintaining formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Last December, China re-established diplomatic relations with Nicaragua, a neighbor of Honduras, and has openly threatened to reduce the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to zero.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202201270010
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202201280008
[3] Taiwan News: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4427855
[4] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/new-honduras-leader-says-she-hopes-maintain-taiwan-ties-2022-01-27/