Taiwan and Australia said Thursday that they hoped to work more closely together under the Taiwan government'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, Catherine Raper, head of the Australian Office in Taipei, said she envisions more promising opportunities for bilateral cooperation under the policy.
In turn, Foreign Minister David Lee (???), said at the ceremony that the policy, which was launched by President Tsai Ing-wen (???), 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 room for us to pursue even closer bilateral relations," Lee said.
Both Lee and Raper mentioned a revised open skies agreement, signed last month between Taiwan and Australia to allow unrestricted capacity for 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 had become barely enough for Taiwanese carriers, according to Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).
In the period 2015 to 2016, there were over 113,000 Taiwanese visitor arrivals to Australia, an annual increase of 30 percent, according to Raper.
Meanwhile, over 20,000 young Taiwanese people travel annually to Australia on working holidays, bringing the total number since the start of the program in 2004 to 160,000, she said.
In the area of trade, Taiwan is Australia's ninth largest merchandise export market and was its 15th largest source of merchandise between 2015 and 2016, 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 January 26 and commemorates the establishment of the first European settlement at Port Jackson, now part of Sydney, in 1788.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel