Taiwan wants the Australian government to resume talks on the free trade agreement after being halted several times by pressure from Beijing.
The Director-General of the Brisbane Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) Edward Tao told The Australian that it would be a good opportunity for the two countries, both of which suffered economic coercion from Beijing.
“Like Australia, we have also experienced economic hardship from China and we are afraid of what it is going to do,” Tao said. “Last year, they stopped our export of pineapples to the mainland.”
Tao said the country, with the same population as Australia on an island as large as Tasmania, was the largest buyer of Australian products per capita.
“Australia has a very healthy trade surplus with Taiwan of about $ 9 billion, and trade will increase in the coming years,” he said, adding that Australia was seen as a safe and friendly investment environment.
Tao said Taiwan is also wary of Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance, noting that Xi Jinping, who is a ‘very different leader’ from his predecessors, wants to leave a legacy.
“We are very aware of the real threat from China and that the situation is getting serious, but we hope sensible heads get the upper hand,” he said.
Interference in Beijing with an FTA from Australia and Taiwan
Australia’s official stance currently holds the Beijing “One China” policy, which means that it does not formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state and also has no official diplomatic relations.
In 2016, however, talks between the then Turnbull government and Taiwan were postponed after Beijing exerted pressure to suspend the trade agreement. The FTA between China and Australia had just been signed in 2015 a year earlier.
Former Liberal Senator David Leyonhjelm tells The Australian financial review in 2017 that Andrew Robb was Minister of Commerce during the period, 2013 to 2016, that a FAR with Taiwan would be ‘at the right time’. However, the Turnbull government never realized this after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi allegedly threatened former Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to pursue an FTA with Taiwan.
“The Chinese government has made it clear to me that conditions between Taiwan and mainland China have changed, and that China will not look favorably on Australia wanting to pursue a free trade agreement with Taiwan, as New Zealand did a few years ago. did, “Bishop said. Fairfax Media in 2018.
Now Taiwanese diplomats and officials are calling on Australia to strengthen ties between the two countries as war warnings intensify in the Asia-Pacific region.
In December 2020, Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan, expressed her hope to sign an Economic Cooperation Agreement with Australia.
“We welcome our Australian friends to ‘rediscover’ Taiwan, and also encourage Taiwanese to ‘rediscover’ Australia to promote more bilateral co-operation and exchanges,” Tsai said, according to the official translation. ‘We also hope that Taiwan and Australia can negotiate and sign an ECA [Economic Cooperation Agreement] and continue to deepen our partnership. ”
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also called for broader relations and stronger ties as Australia diversified away from China after a year of economic coercion from Beijing.
‘If you look at your neighbor, New Zealand, they already have a free request for freedom with Taiwan. “They are taking a lot of trade opportunities away from Australia.” Wu tells the AFR on 6 May. “Australia might consider how to strengthen trade relations with Taiwan by signing an ECA with Taiwan.”
Taiwan is Australia’s seventh largest export market and the tenth largest trading partner overall.
At present, Australia has or is negotiating for FTAs with all of its top ten trading partners except Taiwan.