From his perch as chairman of the U.S. House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., brought out a bill to help Taiwan become a full member of the World Health Organization (WHO). Earlier this year, for the first time in almost a decade, Taiwan was not invited to the WHO’s World Health Assembly (WHA).
Yoho’s bill would make the State Department focus on giving Taiwan a larger role at WHA events down the road and continue to be active with the WHO.
“With an ever growing and increasingly connected global population, it is important that we not let geopolitics get in the way of public health,” Yoho, the vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Friday when he showcased the bill. “Time and again, Taiwan has proven to be an important participant in the effort to identify, study, and combat global health crises. Despite this, China successfully prevented Taiwan from participating in the 2017 World Health Assembly, as part of a wider campaign to ratchet up the pressure on Taiwan’s international space.
“China’s short sighted attempts to restrict Taiwan’s contributions to global health endanger us all, as diseases know no borders,” Yoho added. “This legislation will ensure that U.S. diplomatic efforts advocate effectively for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization. Furthermore, China should accept the role Taiwan has played in improving global health.”
Yoho has the support of some of the leading voices on Capitol Hill on foreign affairs. U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is behind the bill. So are U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee, are also behind it.
“Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization is a matter of public health,” Royce said. “Taiwan has contributed greatly to international efforts to prevent epidemics and provide critical humanitarian aid. The wrongful decision this year by the World Health Assembly to exclude Taiwan should not be allowed to happen again.”
“Taiwan is a model contributor to global public health, as in so many other areas,” Engel said. “A disease does not respect national boundaries, and neither should politics play a role in efforts to address global-health challenges. It's in America's interest for Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly and other international fora where it already meaningfully contributes to health and safety. This legislation is a win-win: it promotes global health and seeks to improve our efforts on Taiwan’s behalf. I'm pleased to be an original cosponsor of this bill.”
Yoho has been focused on Taiwan in recent weeks, including throwing his support behind the Trump administration’s decision to resume arm sales with that nation, including a $1.4 billion package which includes torpedoes, missiles and radar systems.
“I commend in the strongest terms the president’s decision to resume U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a long overdue step that reaffirms the United States’ commitment to Taiwan,” Yoho said at the end of June after the White House’s announcement. “In 1979 the United States committed itself to maintaining cultural, economic, and security ties with Taiwan when the Taiwan Relations Act became law. The act requires the executive branch to make available to Taiwan sufficient self-defense capabilities, but successive administrations have needlessly delayed arms sales, undermining the United States’ long-standing commitment and the security of Taiwan. I hope that this administration continues to uphold the mandate of the Taiwan Relations Act through the regular and consistent sale of arms to Taiwan.”
Yoho also said at that time that he was planning to continue to focus on aiding Taiwan.
“I will also be introducing an amendment to the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act that will hold future administrations accountable when it comes to regular arms sales to Taiwan by enhancing congressional oversight,” Yoho said. “Also, I believe that this administration should seek out every opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan ties with a Bilateral Trade Agreement, as it would serve as a mechanism that would promote peace and stability throughout the Asia-Pacific region.”