Tsai highlights Taiwan’s COVID-19 efforts with Australia

President Tsai Ing-wen. Photo courtesy of the Presidential Office

TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday highlighted cooperative efforts between Taiwan and Australia in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for closer economic ties between the two countries.

“As democratic allies, we have found ways to assist each other under these most unfortunate circumstances,” Tsai said in a virtual address at the Indo-Pacific Leaders Dialogue, which was hosted by the think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

For instance, Tsai said, in March Australia offered Taiwan one million liters of alcohol to make more than four million bottles of 75 percent alcohol sanitizer, while, in exchange, Taiwan provided three metric tons of non-woven fabric, a key material for surgical mask production.

Medical research teams from the two countries have also been collaborating on a treatment for COVID-19, with positive results so far, Tsai said.

In her address, Tsai also called for closer economic ties between Taiwan and Australia, and said that the two countries share a “complementary” trade relationship.

Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products to Taiwan, while it imports Taiwanese telecommunication equipment, refined petroleum, computers, motorcycles and bicycles. This forms a mutually beneficial economic relationship, Tsai said.

With these existing trade relations in place, Tsai said she hopes to begin negotiations in the near future for an economic cooperation agreement between the two countries in order to uncover more collaborative opportunities.

One of these opportunities is Taiwan’s inclusion in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), of which Australia is a part, Tsai said.

Other areas where Australia and Taiwan can collaborate further on is in providing humanitarian aid, disaster relief and cyber security assistance in the Indo-Pacific region, she said.

After concluding her address, Tsai responded to questions from ASPI members and touched on the tensions across the Taiwan Strait amid China’s militarization of the South China Sea.

“We in Taiwan are committed to maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and I am sure that this has not gone unnoticed by the international community,” Tsai said.

However, “there continues to be significant concerns over the potential for accidents, given increased military activity in the region,” she said.

This shows the importance for all parties to maintain open lines of communications to prevent misinterpretations or miscalculations, said Tsai.

Under these risks of conflict, Tsai said that she hopes “like-minded countries will continue to work together to ensure Taiwan’s security, which is in the interests of peace and stability in the (Indo-Pacific) region.”