BY MAX HAHN
The legislation is the latest in efforts by the U.S. Congress to demonstrate increased support for Taiwan.
On December 29 last year, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act (TERA) as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). TERA had received broad bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it passed in July by 329 yes votes, with 101 no votes.
The legislation is designed to optimize U.S. support for Taiwan in various areas, including defense, the economy, and people-to-people relations. Notably, it allocates US$10 billion in grants and loans to provide military equipment to Taiwan over the next five years, aimed at deterring aggressive actions from China.
Also included within the umbrella legislation is the Taiwan Peace and Stability Act, which states U.S. recognition of Taiwan’s prosperity and democracy and notes the tremendous potential value of enabling greater Taiwan participation in international organizations. Additionally, TERA expresses support for including Taiwan in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, a biennial naval exercise involving the U.S. and many of its significant allies.
Until December, TERA was called the Taiwan Policy Act (TPA) and was a standalone law intended to significantly update U.S. policy on Taiwan. The original TPA included a provision for almost US$4.5 billion in security assistance over the next four years and designated Taiwan as a “Major Non-NATO Ally.” Another provision called for allowing the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington to be renamed the Taiwan Representative Office.
The designation of “major non-NATO ally” was ultimately removed from the act in a move analysts say was likely made to avoid agitating China. Further revisions also dropped the renaming of TECRO and removed a proposal ending the outdated practice of referring to the Taiwan government as the “Taiwan authorities” or “the government in Taiwan.”
Regarding economic relations, TERA has a less specific focus on trade than the TPA. The Taiwan Policy Act originally proposed support for a bilateral trade agreement and substantive digital trade between the U.S. and Taiwan, whereas TERA only states the sense of Congress that stronger economic relations are generally beneficial for the U.S. and Taiwan. Thus, while TERA addresses the defensive needs of Taiwan, it leaves room for developing more focused trade agreements, which potentially might follow current talks on trade principles being held under the framework of the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.
Further, more than a decade after it was first proposed, the Taiwan Fellowship Act (TFA), a program designed to develop greater understanding between U.S. and Taiwan government agencies, was also authorized through the signing of the NDAA. The Taiwan Fellowship Program, modeled on the Mansfield Fellowship Program established between the U.S. and Japan in 1994, will annually send 10 U.S. government officials to spend two years in Taiwan with the aim of increasing cultural, linguistic, and policy understanding. Fellows will study Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese and Indo-Pacific regional affairs in their first year and work within Taiwanese government agencies in the second year.
Some local media reports have suggested that the program could start as early as this year, but officials familiar with the act stated that details have yet to be finalized. In a late February interview, the American Institute in Taiwan told Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times that the U.S. and Taiwan are holding preliminary discussions on the funding and details of the program.