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President Ma Meets Australian Parliamentarian David Hawker

President Ma Ying-jeou met with Mr. David Hawker, Member of the Australian House of Representatives, and Mrs. Hawker on the afternoon of September 22 at the Presidential Office. The president, on behalf of the government and people of the ROC (Taiwan), extended a warm welcome and expressed appreciation to them on their visit to Taiwan.

The president commented that Parliamentarian Hawker is an extremely senior member of the House of Representatives and previously served as Speaker of the House. Presently, he is a key member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. President Ma also noted that this marks the second time that Mr. Hawker has led a delegation to Taiwan since 1994.

President Ma remarked that the relationship between Australia and Taiwan is extremely close. Bilateral trade exceeds US$10 billion annually and about 10,000 individuals from Taiwan study in Australia. Prior to the global economic downturn, each year Taiwan residents made about 100,000 visits to Australia for tourism. The president said that Australia is an important friend of Taiwan in the South Pacific. While the two countries do not maintain formal diplomatic relations, the two sides have signed dozens of agreements, demonstrating a high degree of interaction between the two, he said.

In discussing present cross-strait policies and foreign affairs, President Ma explained that since taking office, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have resumed bilateral negotiations and have signed nine agreements, helping to greatly reduce tension in the Taiwan Strait. With regards to relations with other countries, the president said that mutual trust has been bolstered between Taiwan and its key allies. As a result, the role that Taiwan plays in the world is significantly different from that of the past. The president stated that Taiwan will continue to act as a responsible stakeholder and serve in the role of a peacemaker. Meanwhile, the president said that he supports Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's idea for the establishment of an Asia Pacific Community, and appreciates the fact that Mr. Rudd does not rule out Taiwan's participation in such a body.

President Ma stated that during a visit to Australia three years ago he sensed that many people were paying close attention to the competition in the South Pacific between the ROC (Taiwan) and mainland China. At the time, he said, he already had a strong sense that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait needed to engage in a diplomatic truce in order to alleviate unnecessary friction. As a result, after he assumed the presidency, he immediately advocated a policy of "flexible diplomacy," urging both sides to refrain from seeking to woo the diplomatic allies of the other. President Ma said that over the past year-plus period, bilateral relations between Taiwan and mainland China have stabilized, thereby helping to reduce contentious competition between the two in the international arena. It is this environment that has created an opportunity for Taiwan to become a party to the World Trade Organization's Government Procurement Agreement and to participate in the World Health Assembly, he said. President Ma emphasized that the ROC government has already adjusted its policy towards the South Pacific, remarking that the previously criticized "checkbook diplomacy" is a thing of the past.

The guests expressed their appreciation to President Ma for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with them and also stated their concern regarding the serious damage caused to southern Taiwan by the flooding and landslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot. Parliamentarian Hawker also said that Taiwan and Australia can further expand interaction and cooperation on the economic and cultural fronts, which will help to further strengthen bilateral relations.


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