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Government wants Australia economic cooperation pact

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that the administration would like to move toward an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) with Australia.

The president made the comments during a meeting with University of Sydney Vice Chancellor and Principal Michael Spence at the Presidential Office.

Last year, Taiwan inked ECAs with New Zealand and Singapore, Ma said, adding that the government would like to explore a similar deal with Australia.

The trade volume between Taiwan and Australia stands at AU$11.4 billion, Ma said, pointing out that Taiwan is Australia's 16th largest trading partner.

Highlighting the close relationship between Taiwan and Australia, the president said that the two sides have signed 39 different agreements, the amount of which is only second to the number of agreements that Taiwan has with the U.S.

Cross-strait relations have seen gradual improvements since 2008, Ma said, adding that as of February, Taiwan and mainland China have signed 21 agreements.

In February, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) met his mainland Chinese counterpart, Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), in an official context, referring to Zhang and being referred to by Zhang as “minister,” the president said, adding that the event marked a historic milestone.

The administration is actively seeking participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and because roughly 70 percent of Taiwan's economic growth is dependent on exports, the island needs to take a greater part in regional economic integration in order to stimulate its economy, Ma said.

In the first month since Taiwan inked its ECA with New Zealand, overall trade between the two sides grew 73 percent, Ma said, adding that the volume of New Zealand exports to Taiwan had grown 37 percent, whereas the volume of Taiwan exports to New Zealand had grown 120 percent, which indicates that the ECA is beneficial to both sides.

The president went on to reiterate Taiwan's wish to fulfill its roles as peacemaker and humanitarian aid provider in East Asia.

Ma said that he has urged various nations in East Asia to peacefully resolve their disputes over Air Defense Identification Zone issues, on the basis of the East China Sea Peace Initiative, through international law.

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