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

Maddock says joint-projects like this should be a priority for Australia as Taiwan’s superiority in tropical and subtropical horticulture is undisputed.

Yet despite these promising developments, it seems building awareness in Taiwan of the potential for partnership with Australia remains a challenge.

“We [Australia] shut Taiwan off for a long time,” says Maddock, referring to decades of little to no diplomatic contact that began after Australia ended formal ties with Taiwan in 1972.

He adds that although migration, travel and direct flights in recent years have greatly improved levels of understanding, some gaps still remain.

Cowan aims to close these gaps by fostering communities of Taiwanese who have a strong Australian connection. The trade office recently established an Australian alumni association and held a photo competition for returned working holiday makers.

The alumni association has already created some very special connections — a newly wedded couple who first met at an alumni get-together recently gifted the Australia Office a box of customary cookies and thanked them for creating the opportunity for them to meet.

Building upon the joint lychee research project, a young farmers exchange program was launched last year with a group of Australian fruit growers coming to learn farming techniques for lychees and bananas in Taiwan. Cowan says the second round is getting under way with a Taiwanese cohort heading to Australia later this year.

“In looking south, we hope Taiwan thinks of Australia in a broader range of fields than it has before,” Cowan says.

Australia will have to work hard to have Taiwan see it as a natural partner in sectors where the two countries’ collaboration has been previously limited, especially in service sectors outside of education and tourism, such as finance or healthcare. Yet being included in the New Southbound Policy rubric may offer Australia just the chance it needs to refashion its image and give Taiwan’s government and business leaders cause to head even further south — down under.

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