Taiwan is stepping up its efforts to build networks of supporters within the Australian business community and state legislatures, while continuing to pressure the federal government to support its bid to join the CP-TPP trade bloc and establish deeper security connections.
- Club co-president Luke Donnellan said the club’s primary function was to nurture political, diplomatic and commercial ties between Taiwan and Australia.
- Parliamentarians from Victoria and South Australia, as well as several prominent members of the business community with ties to Taiwan, attended the club’s launch.
- Taiwan is trying to solidify ties with democracies like the United States and Australia, despite continued warnings from China.
On Wednesday, around 50 people, including several state parliamentarians from Victoria and South Australia, gathered at Victoria’s parliament with Taiwan’s top diplomat in Melbourne, Ray Lu, to launch the new Australia-Taiwan Club.
Luke Donnellan, a former Victorian government minister and co-chairman of the club, said its primary function was to nurture political, diplomatic and commercial ties between Taiwan and Australia.
Although Australia does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country under its One China policy, it has built a thriving economic relationship with Taipei and maintains unofficial diplomatic and political ties with the 23 million-strong democracy. of inhabitants.
Mr Donnellan said it was “frustrating” and “inappropriate” that the Australia-Taiwan relationship was “in many ways seen as a hidden relationship”.
“We have diplomats (and) politicians there… which highlights the fact that it gets a little silly to pretend that you’re doing trade, that you’re doing all these other things, but you don’t have relationship,” he told the ABC.
“It’s a weird way to behave. We obviously need strong relations with Taiwan and strong relations with China.”
“For me, it’s about recognizing that we need important relationships with both.”
Victorian Industry Minister Natalie Hutchins said it was important to recognize that, in some respects, Taiwan was now Australia’s fourth largest trading partner.
“There are a lot of people in the room who are committed to making this even bigger. We want to make this even bigger,” she said.
“There are so many opportunities for us to work well together.”
She also suggested there was scope for deeper political connections between Victorian MPs and their counterparts in Taiwan, saying there were “many opportunities for Victorian politicians to learn from Taiwan’s democratic system”.
The gathering also attracted Victorian parliamentarians Brad Rowswell, Kat Theophanous, Trung Luu, Nicole Werner, as well as their South Australian counterparts Heidi Girolamo, Tung Ngo, Frank Pangallo and Laura Henderson, as well as several prominent members of the business community with ties with Taiwan.
The move comes just days after a group of eight MPs returned to Australia from a visit to Taipei, where they met with President Tsai Ing Wen and several senior Taiwanese officials.
Although Australia has already sent several parliamentary delegations to Taiwan, the move has nonetheless been condemned by China, which claims the self-governing island as part of its own territory and has threatened to invade if Taipei formally declares independence. .
Taiwan has also attempted to consolidate deeper informal political ties with democracies like the United States, Japan and Australia, as China continues to politically isolate it internationally, putting pressure on the declining group to Taipei’s diplomatic allies so that it grants recognition to Beijing.
The head of the Australian delegation and MP for Fremantle, MP Josh Wilson, told the ABC that MPs wanted to see “the most dynamic region in the world evolve through partnership, through respect, through multilateral problem solving and the rule of law.
“It is remarkable that Australia and Taiwan share an active interest in the fundamentals of peace, stability, mutually beneficial trade and regional cooperation, while recognizing the depth of history and diversity of our side of the world,” he said.
“Australia’s style in pursuing these interests will always be open and engaging, and it was a privilege for our delegation to visit and strengthen our people-to-people ties.”
Shadow assistant foreign minister Clare Chandler was also part of the delegation and said there was “no doubt” the visit had strengthened ties.
Taiwanese officials used the visit to highlight trade relations and press the bipartisan delegation on their top priorities, including deepening security ties, launching negotiations on a free trade pact and securing Australia’s support in its bid to join the massive CP-TPP trade deal.
In a statement released last week, President Tsai said she “hopes the Australian Government and Parliament will support Taiwan’s membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to promote greater regional growth.” .
A bipartisan parliamentary committee recommended early last year that Australia “work with other members of the CPTPP to encourage and facilitate Taiwan’s membership in the CPTPP” and “consider simultaneously negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement.” exchange between Taiwan and Australia” – but the government has yet to respond to the report.
Senator Chandler said Australia “should always seek new opportunities to strengthen our relationship with Taiwan, especially as it is an important trading partner and an important democracy in our region.”
“It is obviously up to the federal government to decide how and when these opportunities will be exploited, but I certainly hope that the government will be open-minded when it comes to strengthening economic ties with Taiwan,” he said. she declared.
Coalition leader Paul Fletcher, who also led the delegation, said the visit was a “success” and “sent an important signal about the value of the Australia-Taiwan relationship”.