Last week, the U.S. House passed a bill from U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, to help Taiwan become a full member of the World Health Organization (WHO). Last 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. The House passed the bill without opposition and Yoho weighed in on Tuesday after his legislation was passed.
“Taiwan is an important democratic partner for the United States, and this legislation will advance our mutual interests by ensuring that the U.S. plan to support Taiwan’s involvement in global health is responsive to recent challenges,” Yoho said. “Taiwan has proven time and again that it is a model contributor to world health. Since 1996, Taiwan has invested over $6 billion in international medical and humanitarian aid efforts impacting over 80 countries; it has made significant financial contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis; and in 2014, Taiwan responded to the Ebola crisis by donating $1 million and providing 100,000 sets of personal protective equipment.”
The North Florida Republican insisted communist China was behind Taiwan being left out of the WHA.
“Despite Taiwan’s contributions to global health, the People’s Republic of China has stepped up its campaign to marginalize Taiwan,” Yoho said. “Last year, Beijing poached one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic partners, the Republic of Panama, and prevented Taiwan’s participation in a number of international organizations. Though Taiwan had participated at the WHO’s annual summit for years, the Taiwanese delegation was blocked from attending in 2017.
“Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO serves no purpose other than to placate Beijing, and puts the world at risk. During the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, official WHO notifications and technical assistance to Taiwan were either blocked or delayed, all while patients in Taiwan died and the virus continued to spread. These diseases know no borders, and considering the extensive transit and trade links it shares with the world, Taiwan’s participation at the WHO is essential,” Yoho continued.
“Taiwan is a benevolent actor on the international stage and deserves to keep the place it has earned. Congress has long supported Taiwan’s international space, and my bill will continue this important work by helping to ensure that the U.S. diplomatic strategy to advocate for Taiwan’s WHO participation adapts to Beijing’s increased efforts to box out Taiwan,” Yoho added. “The next WHO summit will take place in May of this year. With this legislation, the House has recommitted to established U.S. policy by supporting Taiwan’s involvement in the WHO and taken a stand against Beijing’s increasingly oppressive tactics. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to join this stand and pass companion legislation at the earliest opportunity.”
Yoho’s bill 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 is U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee.
“Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization is a matter of public health,” Royce said when Yoho introduced the bill last year. “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.”
Two congresswomen from South Florida who sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee–Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Lois Frankel–cosponsored the bill.
Yoho has been focused on Taiwan in recent months, 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.