BY KERRIE LIANG
Vice President to Make Transit Stop in U.S.
Vice President and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Lai Ching-te will make transit stops in the United States on his way to and from the inauguration of the Paraguayan president-elect Santiago Peña on August 15. The transit visit holds special significance because of Lai’s presidential candidacy.
While specific details of Lai’s itinerary have not yet been disclosed, it is expected to be similar to that of President Tsai Ing-wen’s transit through New York and Los Angeles in March and April earlier this year.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has confirmed Lai’s transit in the U.S. and has urged China to refrain from using it as “a pretext for provocative action.” China responded to Tsai’s transit by conducting naval and air exercises around Taiwan.
Legislators Approve U.S.-Taiwan Trade Deal
The first agreement reached under the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade was unanimously approved by six legislative committees at an extraordinary session in Taipei on July 24. Thanking legislators, President Tsai Ing-wen said the agreement could increase business opportunities for Taiwan and strengthen global supply chains.
Legislation affirming support for the initial trade agreement was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 21 and by the Senate on July 18. The Initiative covers a range of business and trade issues – including customs rules, regulatory practices, and standards – and aims to strengthen and streamline economic relations between the two parties.
U.S. Progresses on Taiwan Tax Agreement
The United States Senate and House of Representatives introduced legislation calling for a tax agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 12 passed the Taiwan Tax Agreement Act of 2023, which aims to authorize the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) to negotiate an agreement to solve double taxation issues. The business community has repeatedly expressed concerns about the impact of double taxation on operations.
Introduced in the House on July 19, the Taiwan Tax Agreement Act would “facilitate investment, protect against tax evasion, and allow businesses in both the U.S. and Taiwan to avoid double taxation,” according to a statement by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The U.S. currently has tax agreements with 67 jurisdictions, while Taiwan has tax agreements with 34. Taiwan is the largest trading partner with which the U.S. lacks a tax agreement.
Phoenix Promises Support For TSMC
A delegation led by Mayor Kate Gallego from Phoenix, Arizona reaffirmed the city’s commitment to supporting Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) US$40 billion investment in the city during a July visit to Taiwan. Phoenix authorities also expressed their dedication to assisting TSMC in the timely completion of its first wafer fab, ensuring it stays on schedule and commences production as planned in the coming year.
During her visit, Mayor Gallego called for the launch of direct flights between Taiwan and Phoenix to ease two-way travel and improve business relations. She also encouraged more Taiwanese investment in her city. Taiwan green energy developers, including electric vehicle, battery, and energy storage companies, are expected to follow TSMC’s lead and invest in Phoenix.
U.S. Approves Taiwan Defense Aid
The U.S. House of Representatives on July 14 passed the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains provisions calling for military cooperation with Taiwan. The Act encourages greater military coordination with Taiwan by conducting joint exercises and developing joint concepts of operation and tactics, techniques, and procedures. Additionally, the NDAA aims to expedite the delivery of asymmetric defense capabilities to Taiwan and strengthen military cybersecurity cooperation between the two countries.
On July 28, the U.S. White House announced a significant military aid package of US$345 million to be provided to Taiwan under the authority of the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA). The PDA was approved last year by the U.S. Congress and sets a limit of US$1 billion for defense articles and services to be delivered in fiscal year 2023. The aid package encompasses a range of defense articles and services, along with military education and training provisions.
Taiwan to Open Mumbai Office
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on July 5 officially commenced preparations for the opening of a representative office in Mumbai, India’s biggest city and financial hub. The Mumbai office will become the third representative office in India, alongside the existing ones in New Delhi and Chennai. In connection with the announcement, India’s outgoing representative to Taiwan, Gourangalal Das, noted that Taiwan and India have developed close cooperation in various industries and that the planned office demonstrates warming bilateral ties between the two countries.
MOFA also announced in July that Taiwan’s second representative office in Italy will open this October in Milan, offering consular and emergency services in northern Italy and promoting bilateral economic cooperation. Italy will be joining the UK, Germany, France, and Switzerland as the fifth European country with more than one Taiwan representative office.
Gender Equality Reforms Planned
Following a number of high-profile sexual harassment and assault cases, lawmakers in July held a second extra session to address amendments to the Act of Gender Equality in Employment, the Gender Equality Education Act, and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act.
An amendment was made to the Gender Equality Education Act on July 31, making it illegal for educators to engage in romantic relationships with underage students. This new law extends beyond traditional educational institutions and also applies to police and military academies, preparatory schools, juvenile reformatory schools, and internships.
Under the revised Act of Gender Equality in Employment, new measures have been implemented to address workplace harassment involving individuals in positions of authority. When such a person is accused of workplace harassment, the company is now required to take immediate action, which may involve placing the accused on leave or assigning them to a different role during the investigation process. If allegations are found to be true, the offender’s contract must be terminated within 30 days.
Additionally, the Taipei Department of Social Welfare has launched a sexual harassment prevention and consultation hotline. The department commissioned the Modern Women’s Foundation to operate the hotline, responding to questions regarding gender equality laws and providing counseling and legal advice to callers. The hotline number is 02-23911067.
Alcohol Standards, Support Introduced
The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has introduced safe alcohol standards for women and men. According to the new recommendations, women should limit their daily alcohol intake to no more than 254 ml of beer, while men should consume no more than 508 ml. These guidelines are based on beer with a 5% alcohol concentration serving as a unit of measurement to define safe consumption limits.
MOHW offers medical subsidies of NT$40,000 annually to individuals trying to quit drinking alcohol. A prevention and treatment center for alcohol addiction is expected to open in November in response to ministry figures indicating a concerning trend of alcohol addiction affecting individuals at a younger age.
Single-Use Toiletries Restricted From 2025
The Environmental Protection Administration has announced that from 2025, all hotels will be restricted from supplying single-use toiletries unless they are specifically requested. This restriction is expected to eliminate 2,100 metric tons of plastic waste annually. As per the guidelines, liquid toiletries must be provided in bottles with a minimum capacity of 180 ml. Additionally, disposable items such as razors, shower caps, and toothbrushes will no longer be automatically provided in guest rooms but can still be made available on request. The guidelines apply specifically to guest rooms and will not impact availability at swimming pools and spas within hotels.