"For decades, Taiwan has been of significant security, economic, and political interest to the United States. While the United States does not diplomatically recognize Taiwan, it is a significant autonomous actor in the world. [...] After Taiwan's presidential election in 2008, the United States congratulated Taiwan as a 'beacon of democracy.' Taiwan donates official foreign aid, including $3.5 million to Japan after its catastrophes in March 2011. Taiwan's economy is the 17th largest in the world. Taiwan is the 9th-largest U.S. trading partner, including the 6th-largest market for U.S. agricultural exports. U.S. cumulative investment in Taiwan totaled $21 billion. Taiwan is a major innovator of information technology (IT) products. Ties or tension across the Taiwan Strait affect global peace and stability, the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and U.S.-PRC [People's Repubic of China] engagement. Taiwan's democracy has allowed its people a greater say in their status, given competing party politics about Taiwan's sovereignty and priorities. The next presidential election is scheduled for January 14, 2012, two months earlier than in previous electoral cycles. Particularly since Taiwan and the PRC resumed the cross-strait dialogue in 2008, one view has stressed concerns that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship has not strengthened. Another approach has seen closer cross-strait engagement as allowing U.S. attention to shift to expand cooperation from a rising China, which opposes U.S. arms sales and other dealings with Taiwan. In any case, Washington and Taipei have put more efforts into their respective relations with Beijing. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has sought U.S. support for his policies, prioritizing U.S. arms sales and Taiwan's inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Taiwan also has asked for an extradition treaty. Another issue has concerned whether to resume Cabinet-level visits. The United States and Taiwan have sought to resume trade talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), but there have been U.S. concerns about Taiwan's restrictions on U.S. beef."
CRS Report for Congress, R41952