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The curbside at Taiwan’s Taoyuan airport (Photo: Kentaro Iemoto from Tokyo, Japan (Taiwan Taoyuan Airport) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. Senators Suggest a New CBP Preclearance Facility in Taiwan

Four U.S. Senators as well as four members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to express their support of the initiative to set up a preclearance facility in Taiwan. This is intended to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Taiwan and to increase passenger traffic.

Preclearance facilities allow international passengers bound for the U.S. to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration before boarding the aircraft, therefore these flights can land in the U.S. at domestic gates without the passengers having to be processed at the international arrival terminals with all other incoming international passengers. Also, this allows flights to destinations that do not have international arrival capabilities and therefore would not be able to accommodate international flights.

Currently, there are 15 airports around the world with CBP preclearance facilities: eight in Canada, two in the Bahamas, two in Ireland and one in each of Bermuda, Aruba and the United Arab Emirates. Between 2015 and 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a list of 21 airports that were being considered for the expansion of the border preclearance scheme, but Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan was not included in this list.

“Taiwan is an outstanding choice for the next CBP preclearance facility. All of the current preclearance facilities abroad are located in Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East, but the Indo-Pacific region is a critical region for our economic future. Taoyuan International Airport already hosts numerous non-stop flights to the United States and is a major transit point in Asia. Taiwan is America’s ninth-largest trading partner and its government strongly supports Taoyuan airport’s bid for the preclearance facility program,” says the letter being sent to Troy Miller, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner at the U.S. CBP.

The cost of these preclearance facilities can be quite high and needs to be justified by the positive effect they would have on U.S. businesses. While the benefits generated by facilities in Canada and the Caribbean appear clear, given their proximity to U.S. soil and the high number of non-stop flights operated towards U.S. airports, other arrangements are usually supported by bilateral agreements between the hosting government and the U.S. administration. For example, unofficial sources suggest that the latest preclearance facility opened in January 2014 at Abu Dhabi International Airport is being financed by up to 80% by the Government of Abu Dhabi, and a similar arrangement is being discussed to have a similar facility at Dubai International Airport.

In 2016 an agreement was signed to make Sweden the second country in Europe to have a U.S. CBP preclearance facility at Stockholm’s Arlanda International Airport.

Blame it on Trade?

As already mentioned, Taoyuan Airport is not included in any lists published by the U.S. DHS, nor it is in the list of other facilities that are currently the object of negotiation under different agreements, although the letter sent to CBP suggests that Taoyuan Airport has already filed an application with the U.S. government to obtain a preclearance facility. Before international connections were heavily affected by the pandemic, Taoyuan Airport had non-stop flights to eight U.S. cities: Chicago; Honolulu; Houston; Los Angeles; Ontario, Calif.; New York; San Francisco and Seattle.

In addition to sending the letter to the CBP, the bipartisan coalition reintroduced the Taiwan relations reinforcement act, which if approved will introduce a few formal changes to the status of Taiwan representatives in the U.S., the Taipei Times reports. This act, which was introduced to the Senate last October but was not included in the congressional schedule in the previous term, is being reintroduced to establish a framework that would show support to Taiwan amid fears that China will start targeting the “rebel island” more aggressively.

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