President Tsai Ing-wen met with Australian Representative to Taiwan Gary Cowan on the morning of December 7, thanking him for his hard work and contributions to Taiwan-Australia relations. She also expressed hope that Taiwan and Australia can negotiate and sign an Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA), and continue to deepen our partnership.
A translation of the president's remarks follows:
I remember when Representative Cowan came to the Presidential Office this past March, we exchanged many ideas about economics, trade, education, and fighting the pandemic. Over the last two years and more, I have met Representative Cowan at many events. This reflects Taiwan and Australia's close cooperation in a broad range of areas. Representative Cowan's posting will come to an end next month. So here, on behalf of the people and government of Taiwan, I want to thank you for your hard work and contributions to Taiwan-Australia relations.
Next year will mark 40 years since the Australian Office Taipei was established. I know that you and the distinguished guests present today have enthusiastically arranged many activities leading up to this. In keeping with the theme "Rediscover Australia, Rediscover Taiwan" you are exploring new opportunities to develop bilateral relations, including last month's Australian wine tasting, which has a hit with all who attended.
Australian wine has always been world-renowned, and has become especially popular in recent times. I have seen many Australian wine brands gaining popularity on social media platforms, as the whole world "rediscovers" more Australian wines.
But wine is not the only Australian product popular in Taiwan. Australia is also our fourth largest supplier of agricultural and food products. Moreover, last year our bilateral trade reached a historic high of $AUD 20 billion.
Over the past two years or so, Representative Cowan and I have witnessed the progress of Taiwan-Australia energy sector cooperation. During that period, Taiwan signed a long-term contract to purchase liquefied natural gas from Australia. Australia has joined us on our path to energy transition, playing a pivotal role in the completion and launch of our first offshore wind farm.
In addition to expanding on this progress, we welcome our Australian friends to "rediscover" Taiwan, and also encourage Taiwanese to "rediscover" Australia, to promote more bilateral cooperation and exchanges. We also hope that Taiwan and Australia can negotiate and sign an ECA, and continue to deepen our partnership.
As Representative Cowan has said, Taiwanese are true friends in times of need, emphasizing that Australia is also a staunch supporter of Taiwan. I must say that, looking back over our recent cooperation during the pandemic, Australia has been a good friend of Taiwan, a true partner. When Australia faces intense pressure, Taiwan will certainly be there to provide warmth and support.
I want to take this opportunity to offer special thanks to Prime Minister Scott Morrison for supporting Taiwan's international participation. Last year, Australia also participated in the Taiwan-US Global Cooperation Training Framework (GCTF) for the first time, jointly holding a workshop. And we hope to see even closer Taiwan-Australia cooperation on more international issues in the future.
In closing, I want to thank Representative Cowan once again for your friendship and contributions to Taiwan. I have often seen you communicate with the Taiwanese public in Mandarin on social media, sharing Taiwan's culture and scenic beauty. You have even completed Taiwan's three essential challenges: swimming across Sun Moon Lake, cycling around the island, and climbing to the top of Yushan, a truly impressive feat. You will always be a good friend of Taiwan. We welcome you to come back often, and wish you all the best.