Australian lawmakers to visit Taiwan in September

Bi-partisan group of 10 lawmakers to visit for trip likely to focus on trade

Australia's Parliament House in Canberra. (Canva photo)

Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra. (Canva photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A bi-partisan delegation of 10 Australian lawmakers will visit Taiwan in September on a trip that is likely to focus on trade.

The ABC reports that the group will include government MPs Josh Wilson, David Smith and Graham Perrett, as well as the opposition MP Claire Chandler. Chandler said the visit was a continuation of years of parliamentary delegations visiting Taiwan.

“Australian parliamentary delegations have been visiting Taiwan for many years, just as Australian delegations visit many other destinations regularly,” she said. An unnamed lawmaker involved in organizing the trip reportedly said that it was “crucial” for Australia to continue sending unofficial political demonstrations to Taiwan to demonstrate support.

In a statement, Taiwan’s representative office in Canberra said Australian parliamentarians from all parties are welcome to visit Taiwan. “This mutually beneficial trade relationship could further serve as a springboard on our path of moving towards a more resilient economy and supply chains.”

“We look forward to further cooperation through extensive engagements between Taiwan and Australia, including visits among parliamentarians,” the office said.

Australia’s foreign ministry has not said what level of support it will offer the delegation. On its website, the ministry says Australia strongly supports the development of its unofficial relationship with Taiwan.

A stronger relationship with Australia may help Taiwan’s CPTPP bid, which is in competition with China’s own application which it submitted a week before Taiwan’s in September 2021. Applications to join the CPTPP are open to states and economies, so the fact that none of the existing member states recognize the country would not be an impediment.

What may be an impediment to Taiwan’s bid is China’s opposition to the bid, as all members must form a consensus on new member’s applications. Earlier in August, Chinese state media published an editorial that claimed Australia did not support Taiwan’s bid to join the trade organization. However, in a statement provided to Taiwan News at the time, Australia’s foreign ministry said its position on the matter had not changed.

Statements published by the trade group state that any economy seeking to accede to the CPTPP must demonstrate that it can implement the rules and standards of the agreement, and have a proven track record of complying with international trade commitments.

According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), Australia is the country’s 7th largest trade partner, and accounted for 3.5% of trade in 2022. Inward trade is largely driven by Taiwan’s high demand for coal used in energy production, while Taiwan exports agricultural products to Australia.

Australia supplied 64% of Taiwan’s coal in 2016 according to Austrade, which notes this as a potential growth area in the future, though Australia has recently also increased investments in renewable energy in Taiwan.