US Senate backs Taiwan’s bid for WHO observer status

May 13, 2022

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday (May 13) signed a Bill into law to help Taiwan regain observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA).

May 13 was the deadline for Biden to sign the Bill, which directs "the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organisation (WHO), and for other purposes."

The 75th WHA, the decision-making body of the WHO, is scheduled to open on May 22.

The Bill, introduced by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was passed with "unanimous consent" in the Senate on August 6, 2021 and given the green light by the U.S. House of Representatives, 425 to zero, on April 27, 2022 before being sent to Biden's desk for signing on May 3.

Menendez said in a Twitter message that he was "thrilled" to see Biden sign the Bill into law to support Taiwan in its efforts to regain its observer seat at the WHA.

"In the face of Beijing's hostility, our efforts powerfully demonstrate the United States' commitment to Taiwan's appropriate presence on the world stage," the U.S. Senator said.

The Bill describes Taiwan as a model contributor to world health, having provided financial and technical assistance to respond to numerous global health challenges. It says Taiwan has invested more than US$6 billion in international medical and humanitarian aid efforts impacting over 80 countries since 1996.

Taiwan was expelled from WHO in 1972 after losing its seat at the United Nations when the U.N. switched recognition to the People's Republic of China.

Taiwan took part in the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016, when relations between Taipei and Beijing were good under the previous Kuomintang (KMT) government in Taiwan.

However, since 2017, China has pressured WHO not to invite Taiwan to the WHA, in retaliation against a decision by President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, to reject a previous compromise agreement accepted by the KMT.

The 75th WHA meeting is scheduled to take place in Geneva from May 22 to 28.

Taiwan plans to send a delegation to Geneva during the 75th WHA, even though it has not been invited to attend.

The delegation, to be led by Deputy Health Minister Lee Li-feng will seek to meet on the sidelines with representatives from WHO member countries, to garner support for Taiwan's participation in the WHA.