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Australia must not miss out on Taiwanese opportunities: Hill

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Monday, November 9 97/92


The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, today said there was great scope to broaden and deepen the Australia/Taiwan relationship and that Australia could not afford to miss out on the opportunities created by Taiwan's dynamic economy.

He made his comments in a speech to an Australia Taiwan

Business Council conference in Melbourne.

Senator Hill said Australia's relationship with Taiwan had finally begun to develop in the way which had been

consistently called for by the Federal Opposition.

It had been a frustratingly slow process, and one could be excused for thinking that the Australian Government had been trying to hinder rather than develop the relationship.

On Ministerial visits, the Government had taken the lead from the Coalition - in March 1991, John Hews on had led the most senior Australian delegation ever to visit Taiwan.

The Government had last month sent the Minister for Resources and Tourism, Mr Griffiths, to Taiwan, but a more senior Minister - such as the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button - would have been ideal.

"Within the context of Australia's one-China relationship, which is supported on both sides of the Parliament, there is still much scope to broaden and deepen the relationship," Senator Hill said.

"It is in Australia's interests to further expand the relationship through the promotion of new opportunities, as well as overcoming existing obstacles.

"The dynamism of the Taiwanese economy presents opportunities we cannot afford to lose.

"The Coalition believes that there is great scope for Australia to expand its trade, investment and service industry opportunities in Taiwan."

Senator Hill said the Australian Commerce and Industry Office


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in Taiwan had identified key opportunities for Australian business in Taiwan.

These had included power generation and coal supply; telecommunications; industrial development and technology; environmental management; tourism; and medical and health care services.

He said another major area of opportunity for Australia was Taiwan's growing demand for education and tourism services.

In 1991, Australia had attracted a small fraction of the 3.3 million Taiwanese who travelled overseas, and in the same year had hosted just 2000 of the approximately 50,000 Taiwanese students studying overseas.

Senator Hill said the lack of Taiwanese investment in Australia was astounding, and Australia must initiate a high- level and public campaign in Taiwan to better promote investment in Australia.

He said it was also in Australia's interests to identify and overcome obstacles to Australia-Taiwan trade, and there had been too little effort over the years by the Australian Government to negotiate reduction of barriers.

For example, fresh fruit and vegetables and high value processed foods faced duties; most agricultural products required import licences; the import of chicken, rice, peanuts

and beef was very tightly controlled; a monopoly of trade in alcohol presented problems for potential exports of Australian wines; and Australian car parts and tyres were currently denied access to the Taiwan market.

The Coalition was supportive of the more liberal political changes occurring in Taiwan and its increasing trade and economic role in the Asian region.

In addition, the Coalition welcomed the recent establishment of the GATT Working Group on Taiwan to consider Taiwan's application for membership, and the granting of observer status for Taiwan in the interim. The Coalition was anxious to see Taiwan admitted to GATT as soon as possible.

Senator Hill said that for too many years bureaucratic hurdles and outdated barriers had been placed in the way of the advancement of the Australia-Taiwan relationship.

"It is a credit to the entrepreneurial flair of Australian and Taiwanese companies that so much has been achieved with so little Australian Government support," Senator Hill said.


Enquiries: Mark Batistich at the conference from about 8.30am or on (06) 277 3170 from about 1pm.