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President Tsai addresses Indo-Pacific Leaders Dialogue session

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Office of the President Republic of China (Taiwan)

 

President Tsai Ing-wen recently delivered a virtual address at the Indo-Pacific Leaders Dialogue session at the invitation of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think tank based in Canberra. She also fielded prepared questions from the participants.

 

The president pointed out that through cooperation and mutual assistance, Taiwan and Australia were able to weather the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. She expressed hope to begin negotiations for a Taiwan-Australia economic cooperation agreement in the very near future, so that we can uncover more opportunities that benefit both our countries. The president also looks forward to collaborating with Australia to maintain stability and peace in the region.

 

Referring to the passing of the "Hong Kong version of the National Security Law," President Tsai reiterated that we strongly support the people of Hong Kong's quest for democracy, freedom and human rights, and we commend our democratic allies, such as Australia and the United States, for taking action to support Hong Kong and safeguard democracy. She called on the international community to pay close attention to the potential hotspots of conflict in the East and South China Seas, and work together to resolve any issue or conflict peacefully.

 

A transcript of President Tsai's speech follows:

 

Participants of the "Pacific Leaders' Dialogue", and all those watching this live stream, good morning. It is wonderful to be with you all through the Internet.

 

I would like to begin my talk with a special thanks to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute for hosting this important event. It is my honor and pleasure to take part in the "Pacific Leaders' Dialogue" at a time when the Indo-Pacific Region is facing many significant challenges.

 

I will use today's opportunity to share with you Taiwan's perspectives in navigating through this critical time.

 

Taiwan-Australia Cooperation Overview

 

In recent years, the multifaceted relationship Taiwan and Australia share has grown even closer, propelled by our shared values of democracy and freedom.

 

Taiwan and Australia have found an increased number of issues and opportunities in education, tourism, trade, culture, science and security to collaborate in, resulting in mutually beneficial outcomes.

 

This year, Taiwan and Australia, like the rest of the world, are facing the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, as democratic allies, we have found ways to assist each other under these most unfortunate circumstances.

 

For example, in March, as we dealt with a shortage of materials for epidemic prevention, Australia graciously offered Taiwan one million liters of alcohol to make more than four million bottles of 75%-alcohol sanitizer, while, in exchange, Taiwan provided three metric tons of non-woven fabric, the key raw material for surgical mask production.

 

It is because of this kind of mutual assistance, both Taiwan and Australia were able to weather the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

At the same time, medical research teams from Taiwan's Chang Gung University and Australia's Monash University have been working together to develop a treatment for COVID-19, and have achieved positive results.

 

I firmly believe, it is through this kind of cooperation, transparency in communication and information sharing, that we can finally get past this dangerous pandemic.

 

Taiwan-Australia Trade Cooperation

 

On the economic front, the pandemic has caused an accelerated restructuring of supply chains.

 

One positive aspect of this effect is, it allows us to reexamine and reassess economic and trade cooperation.

 

I have always said that the economic relationship between Taiwan and Australia is mutually beneficial. Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products to Taiwan with meat, wheat and dairy being the most important exports. In addition, health conscious consumers in Taiwan are big fans of Australia's health supplements, food and beverages.

 

On the other hand, Australia imports telecommunication equipment and parts, refined petroleum, computers, motorcycles and bicycles from Taiwan.

 

Australia's prominence in the supply of agricultural products and the significant value of Taiwan's high-tech exports epitomizes the complementary nature of the trade relationship between our two countries.

 

Moreover, Australia is now Taiwan's second largest provider of natural gas. Australian firms are also playing a crucial role in Taiwan's endeavor to utilize more green energy by establishing offshore wind farms.

 

With all these existing economic and trade relations between our countries, my hope is to begin negotiations for a Taiwan-Australia economic cooperation agreement in the very near future, so we can uncover more opportunities that benefit both our countries. One of these opportunities is Taiwan's inclusion in the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership). Taiwan's participation in this Trans-Pacific Partnership will naturally also benefit Australia as a member country.

 

Taiwan and Australia's Cooperation for Regional Peace and Stability

 

Now that we have talked about the regional economic partnership, let me also speak a bit about the region our countries share – the Indo-Pacific Region.

 

Taiwan and Australia are key members of the Indo-Pacific Region. The preservation of "peace" and "prosperity" in the region is both our responsibility and in our best interest.

 

The joint declaration from the Australia-US Ministerial Consultation reiterated the importance of Taiwan for the region. The declaration asserted strong support for Taiwan and pledged cooperation with Taiwan to provide aid and assistance to the development of Pacific Island countries. For this, I want to express our gratitude.

 

The state of our region is changing rapidly, and thus requires the most comprehensive strategic adjustment since World War II. "Grey-zone activities" exemplify and constitute the challenges we must face together.

 

In recent years, the government of Australia adjusted its own regional strategy to reflect the pace of change in the region. It became more proactive in its national defense. We are deeply impressed by Australia's rapid actions, taken to protect not only itself but the region.

 

Additionally, Australia's "Pacific Step Up" policy and the "Indo-Pacific Endeavor" have, since 2017, elucidated your government's steadfast commitment to the region. The activities included in the "Indo-Pacific Endeavor," such as humanitarian aid, disaster relief and the improvement of maritime capabilities, are also where Taiwan's strengths lie. It is my hope that Taiwan can also collaborate with Australia in these efforts to maintain stability and peace in the region.

 

Taiwan has also been making and maintaining partnerships in the Pacific for many decades. We have worked with our diplomatic allies to improve infrastructure, agriculture technology, sanitation, medical services, and clean energy. We have also assisted them in human resources training and encouraged cultural exchanges.

 

When it comes to the maintenance of regional stability, peace and development, Australia and Taiwan have been standing together at the forefront. Both Taiwan and Australia are committed to upholding the rules-based international order and employing transparency and accountability as the basis for cooperation.

 

On the other hand, what we do not want to see is, countries violating the existing rules-based order for the purpose of flexing their military might, threatening and eroding the free and open Indo-Pacific region.

 

Hong Kong's National Security Law and Threats in the South China Sea

 

Now, I have spoken about freedom and democracy throughout this talk. I want to mention one of the biggest challenges we have to tackle, that is, the "Hong Kong version of the National Security Law".

 

The passage of this law garnered tremendous attention from the international community. In Taiwan, we strongly support the people of Hong Kong's quest for democracy, freedom and human rights, and we commend our democratic allies, such as Australia, the US, UK and Canada for taking action to support Hong Kong and safeguard democracy.

 

We are also paying close attention to the potential hotspots of conflict in the East and South China Seas. We call on the international community to be vigilant and work together, in accordance with international law, to resolve any issue or conflict peacefully.

 

Taiwanese-Australian Responses to Information and Communication Security Threats

 

Not only is the situation in the East and South China Seas disconcerting to all in the region, another challenge we have to confront is the threat to our information and communication security.

 

Both public and private institutions in Taiwan and Australia have been experiencing large-scale, systematic hacking and cyber-attacks in recent years. Over the past few years, the Taiwanese government has been dedicated to the development of our information and communication security industry and safety net. We hope to invoke Taiwan's experience, our expertise and technology to assist countries in the Indo-Pacific region, especially Pacific Island nations, to advance their cyber security.

 

In this regard, I must again commend the Australian government for its leading effort in this area. Australia's Cyber Bootcamp Project and Pacific Cyber Security Operational Network (PaCSON) are all impressive examples of Australia's leadership that would ultimately improve information and communication security in the Pacific.

 

Taiwan is also dedicated to information and communication security. We are now setting up Taiwan Digital Opportunity Centers for our diplomatic allies in the Pacific. We are helping our diplomatic allies train technological experts and improve their cyber environment.

 

Taiwan and Australia have common goals. We want to not only improve the information and communication environment; we are also working toward equipping Pacific Island countries with the necessary ammunition to combat disinformation. I firmly believe, this is another area that needs cooperation between Taiwan and Australia. 

 

Taiwan-Australia People-to-People Exchange

 

Taiwan is capable of and dedicated to making contributions to the world. One of Taiwan's strong suits is our ability to cultivate and nurture talent. The youth are our future. We have always been very encouraging to young people to travel abroad and broaden their horizons.

 

Every year, more than ten thousand young Taiwanese people go to Australia for the working holiday program. Last year, more than 18,000 Taiwanese students studied abroad in Australia.

 

Other than education and cultural exchanges, products from Australia are very popular in Taiwan. For example, Taiwan's specialty, beef noodle soup, is often made with Australian beef. Taiwan's supermarkets are stocked with top-quality Australian potatoes and wine.

I want to encourage Australian friends to come to Taiwan to see our wonderful scenery with your own eyes and taste our exciting cuisine.

 

Conclusion

 

To conclude, I want to say this. The relationship between Taiwan and Australia has grown quite close in recent years, through exchanges in many areas, despite the distance between our two countries.

 

We have noticed Australia's effort to build greater support for democracy and freedom and to raise awareness of the challenges posed by authoritarian actors and states.

 

The people of Taiwan are proud of their democracy and are encouraged by Australia's dedication to stand with, safeguard and promote democracy. I am very confident that Taiwan and Australia will rise successfully together to meet future challenges and maintain peace and prosperity for our region.

 

Lastly, I wish you all a successful and productive conference.

 

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2020-08-28