Taipei-Australia is exploring the potential for cooperation with Taiwan in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Southeast Asia as both countries increase their engagement with the fast-growing economies in that region, according to Australia's top envoy to Taipei on Monday.
Australia has been supportive of Taiwan's New Southbound Policy as it is expected to both strengthen bilateral relations and create areas of complementarity with Australia's own national interests, including ODA programs in Southeast Asian countries, said Catherine Raper, representative of the Australian Office in Taipei.
Raper's remarks came after the Taiwanese government announced last month that it will establish a US$3.5 billion ODA program to help countries covered by its policy -- which seeks to increase cooperation with Southeast Asian and South Asian countries, as well as New Zealand and Australia -- with infrastructure and major development projects.
"Australia is also a major aid and development donor to many Southeast Asian nations and will watch with interest the development of Taiwan's plans to scale up its ODA in Southeast Asia," Raper said in an exclusive interview with CNA.
Australia has a big overseas development program in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and India, where it has been helping to strengthen their economic fundamentals and provide on-the-ground assistance in areas such as healthcare, agriculture and women's empowerment, she said.
In that context, Taiwan's policy framework provides good opportunities for both sides to work together, Raper said, adding that the Australian government has been encouraging its officials in Southeast Asian countries to keep in touch with their Taiwanese counterparts as plans develop.
"It is early days (for the New Southbound Policy) because it's still being unfolded, but we are certainly very keen to explore to see where it can go," said Raper.
There are still other instances where Australia and Taiwan work together to tap into Southeast Asian countries, Raper said.
For instance, the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year on collaboration to facilitate research on selected Taiwanese lychee varieties for production in Queensland, which will then be exported to Southeast Asian countries.
The weather in Queensland is similar to that in southern Taiwan, Raper said, pointing out that since the climate in both countries is juxtaposed, the partnership is expected to lead to greater export capacity ensuring year-round lychee supply to the market.
The institute sent four varieties of baby lychee plants to Australia in September, which are currently under quarantine, she said.
Australia and Taiwan have healthy economic ties, Raper said, adding that the most recent trade statistics show two-way goods trade from January to September this year is up 15 percent from the same period in 2016, continuing the upward trend of the past several years.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel