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President Ma Meets Delegation of Australian Parliamentarians

President Ma Ying-jeou met with a delegation of Australian senators at the Presidential Office on the afternoon of November 12. The president, on behalf of the government and people of the ROC (Taiwan), expressed a warm welcome to the visitors. He added that the ROC is willing to assist the Australian government in preparatory work to establish an Asia Pacific Community.

The president commented that trade relations between Taiwan and Australia are quite close, with bilateral trade volume last year reaching A$12.7 billion. Taiwan is Australia's 12th largest trading partner. Meanwhile, he noted that about 10,000 Taiwanese are studying in Australia and each year 6,000 Taiwanese pick Australia as a destination for working holidays. In addition, Australia and the ROC have signed 30 memoranda or agreements, which is second in number only to that between the ROC and the United States. This further highlights the frequent and close contacts between the two sides, he said.

President Ma expressed appreciation to the Australia-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group for its many years of staunch support for Taiwan. At present, membership in the Friendship Group exceeds 120, which means that for every two Australian parliamentarians, one is a member of the Friendship Group. The president said that he visited Canberra three years ago when he was still Taipei City Mayor. He said he received a warm welcome from the Friendship Group during his stay there and they provided him with a wide range of assistance, which he said he will always remember. President Ma furthermore explained that since the new government took office here in May of last year, it has aggressively promoted flexible diplomacy. In addition to improving relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, this policy has helped to effectively bolster relations between the ROC and countries with which it does not maintain diplomatic relations, fostering the basis for mutual trust. He said he is pleased that the government's efforts in this regard have won support from many countries.

President Ma said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a recent interview with The Australian newspaper floated the idea of an Asia Pacific Community. The president said the ROC government not only welcomes this idea, but also is willing to participate in and make a contribution to preparatory work to establish this regional organization. President Ma stressed that Taiwan's performance in APEC throughout the years demonstrates that Taiwan can play an important function. He said he hopes that Taiwan's many years of efforts will not be neglected by important international organizations. In particular, he said, the Australian government on December 3 in Sydney will hold the first preparatory meeting for the Asia Pacific Community. The president expressed his hopes that the visiting members of the Friendship Group will be able to provide assistance so Taiwan can participate in related preparatory conferences.

The visitors expressed their appreciation to President Ma for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with them. They also said that this marks their third visit to Taiwan and each trip here provides them with an unforgettable and wonderful experience. They said they have gotten a deep sense for the democratic tradition here and they have also made a number of close friends. They added that in the future they will continue to do what they can to further enhance relations between Taiwan and Australia.

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