Sat, Jan 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan, Australia target stronger ties

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan and Australia on Thursday said that they hope to work more closely together under Taipei’s “new southbound policy,” which is aimed at advancing ties with countries in Southeast and South Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at Australia Day celebrations in Taipei, Australian Office in Taipei Representative Catherine Raper said she envisions more promising opportunities for bilateral cooperation under the policy.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維), said the policy allows greater opportunities for Taiwan’s young people to engage with others in the region.

“I strongly believe that, with countries sharing many values and economic interests, there is still plenty of room for us to pursue even closer bilateral relations,” Lee said.

Lee and Raper cited a revised open skies agreement, signed last month between Taiwan and Australia to allow unrestricted flights between the two sides, as an example of broadening bilateral opportunities.

“There are already 20 weekly direct flights and these new arrangements provide scope for further expansion,” Raper said.

Under the previous agreement, Taiwanese and Australian carriers each provided 6,000 seats per week, which was barely enough for Taiwanese carriers, according to Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration.

From 2015 to last year, there were more than 113,000 Taiwanese visits to Australia, an annual increase of 30 percent, Raper said.

Meanwhile, more than 20,000 young Taiwanese travel to Australia on working holidays per year, bringing the total number since Taiwan was included in the program in 2004 to 160,000, she said.

In the area of trade, Taiwan is Australia’s ninth-largest export market and was its 15th-largest source of products between 2015 and last year, Raper said.

“In these ways, I am proud to report that our friendship continues to grow and prosper,” she said, adding that both sides should “work steadily and take one step at a time in order to make solid progress.”

Australia Day is on Jan. 26 and commemorates the establishment of the first European settlement at Port Jackson, now part of Sydney, in 1788.

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