Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Southbound down under

Two Australian leaders from government and business shed light on how the country can make the most of the New Southbound Policy to broaden its partnership with Taiwan

By Liam Gibson  /  Contributing reporter

Australia’s newly appointed Representative Designate Gary Cowan meets Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-Chin earlier this month in Taipei.

Photo courtesy of Australia Office Taipei

When Ross Maddock led an Australian delegation to meet President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) the day after her inauguration in 2016, the first topic she raised was pension reform.

“I told her that we can do this,” says Maddock, former head and council member of the Australia-Taiwan Business Council. Maddock told Tsai that Australia has both the governmental experience to set up an efficient superannuation system and the business know-how to create new services around that system that will boost the finance sector.

Indeed, Australia was ranked first in the world in Allianz’s 2016 Pension Sustainability Index.

Gary Cowan, the newly appointed Representative Designate of the Australia Office Taipei, says Australia is known here mostly as a resources supplier and a great holiday destination, but adds that the country has a lot more to offer Taiwan. Central to his vision for expanding the two countries relations in the years ahead is raising Australia’s profile as a partner for collaboration in an ever widening range of fields.

“The timing’s great,” Cowan says. “Australia is looking north to the Indo-Pacific right at the same time that Taiwan is looking south through its New Southbound Policy… There is a policy symmetry that’s going to work for us.”

GREEN and GOLD ENERGY

Australia, one of Taiwan’s biggest energy providers and its largest supplier of thermal coal, is now looking to provide greener alternatives to Taiwan’s transforming energy sector.

Cowan applauds the major energy reforms Taiwan is currently undergoing and says the transition challenges faced by the nation, especially power reliability and pricing, mirror Australia’s own experience.

He says his country has a lot to share with Taiwan both commercially and in terms of policy.

“Our [renewable energy] companies have an enormous amount of skill… and a commitment to Taiwan which has been enabled by the determination of the [Taiwanese] government to move into this arena,” Cowan says.

Australia’s liquefied natural gas exporters and renewable energy companies stand to benefit from new opportunities opening up in Taiwan’s shifting energy market.

Maddock says many Australia-Taiwan business council members are keen to get involved with new opportunities in Taiwan’s energy sector and names Macquarie Taiwan as one example which has evolved its investment strategy, becoming an operator of windfarms and solar plants.

In 2016, the Australian multinational announced plans to invest US$791 million, becoming the chief stake holder in the Formosa 1 offshore wind farm project.

Cowan says Australia’s strength in scientific research and biotechnology also has great potential to compliment Taiwan’s efforts to develop its biotech sector into an engine of innovation.

Indeed, already the Taiwan Blood Services Foundation (台灣血液基金會) regularly sends blood to Australia to create blood preparations for medical use in Taiwan. As the world’s leading plasma producer, the firm audits the blood service’s laboratories in Taiwan, which are also approved by the Australian government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Maddock says there are many more opportunities like this in the biotech sphere, cancer treatment and hearing-aid technology having particular potential.

FOSTERING NETWORKS

The two countries have also begun to collaborate on agriculture research projects. Last year, Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Queensland state government and sent four local varieties of lychee to be grown in tropical state, taking advantage of the complementary climates to extend the fruit’s short growing season.

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