Australian Office

Representative Cowan's speech at Nan Der Rotary Club

21 July 2020






·         Mr Edward Lee, for his generous invitation to speak with you today

·         Nan Der Rotary Club President, Mr Leo Liau

·         Ladies and gentlemen of Nan Der Rotary Club

·         Guests, friends and colleagues


I’d like first to applaud the work that Rotary does internationally, particularly in the fields of health and education. Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for more than 30 years, and has helped immunise more than 2.5 billion children against this debilitating virus in 122 countries.

And fighting against the challenge of this new virus, COVID-19, Rotary clubs across the world have redoubled their efforts and continue to raise funds for protective equipment, testing, and awareness campaigns.

I understand that the Nan Der Club also has a heavy focus on health and education, and that your members managed to raise about 2 million Taiwan dollars for community projects in Taiwan last year. So I would also like to applaud your efforts personally.

At the Australian office, we have a strong personal connection with Rotary, and know firsthand the importance of the work you do.

Our Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner here in Taiwan, Brent Moore, was a volunteer with Rotary in East Timor. His father won the Paul Harris Medal for his service with Rotary in that same, fledgling country, helping to build and restore community facilities, such as schools.

And the son of another of our staff members participated in a Rotary youth exchange program in 2019. This gave him the opportunity to study in Germany, to develop lifelong friendships, and to promote international understanding at that most important of levels – person to person.

I cannot overstate the importance of organisations such as Rotary, and civil society more generally, in difficult times such as those we face today. The ongoing global challenge of COVID, as well as the deeply concerning situation in Hong Kong serve to remind us that organisations such as yours are crucial in promoting health and freedom across the globe.

Rotary’s international priorities align very strongly with Australia’s. And Australia, like Taiwan, provides life-saving assistance in many countries around the world.

Taiwan has, of course, done an enviable job of controlling COVID-19 domestically, with fewer than 500 confirmed cases and just 7 COVID fatalities. Your success shows the depth and breadth of expertise and experience that you can share with the rest of the world.

As just one means of enabling this, Australia maintains our longstanding position that Taiwan should have observer status at the World Health Assembly.

Australia has also managed to deal with the epidemic very effectively, recording much lower caseloads and COVID fatalities than most countries around the world.

But the clusters we have seen in Melbourne in particular in recent weeks underline the need for continued vigilance, and the need to avoid complacency. Unfortunately, travel to Australia will continue to be challenging in the near term.

But we recognise that many of our neighbours will face challenges much greater than ours, and our focus continues to be our home – the Indo-Pacific region. Both Australia and Taiwan’s prosperity depend on our region’s effective, coordinated response to the health and economic consequences of this pandemic.

Through our COVID Development Response, Partnerships for Recovery, we’ve already provided PPE and medical supplies to 23 countries and territories, established an isolation centre in Timor-Leste, and provided rapid financial support to Pacific island governments to maintain essential services. 

Taiwan has also shown that it can and does help. You have so far donated more than 24 million masks to your friends around the world, as well as providing other invaluable assistance. To Pacific Island Countries and Papua New Guinea, Taiwan has provided not only masks, but testing machines, reagent supplies, thermal cameras, ventilators and other supplies.

We have also helped each other directly.

Australian medical supply companies have relied on raw materials from Taiwan for more than 20 years. During the onset of COVID-19, we worked closely with Taiwan to ensure urgently needed raw surgical mask materials were shipped overnight to manufacturers in Australia to maintain our supply. And one of our companies continued to provide Taiwan with millions of litres of much needed ethanol for sanitation.  This is the way solid, trusting trade relationships work.

Australia has also worked with international airlines and freight companies to maintain our food supply to key partners through the International Freight Assistance Mechanism. Among other things, we’ve significantly increased the volume of fresh Australian salmon available in Taiwan, ensuring restaurants and supermarkets don’t go without.

This global health crisis has, in many ways, made our strong relationship even stronger.

Before COVID, Taiwan was already Australia’s twelfth largest two-way trading partner, with trade in 2019 totalling over 400 billion Taiwan dollars [over 20 billion Australian dollars]. What’s more, that trade had been growing at an incredible average of 10 per cent per year over the last five years.

Australia is already Taiwan’s sixth largest supplier of food and agricultural products. We are Taiwan’s largest supplier of sheep-meat and barley; and a major supplier of beef, wine, milk, yoghurt and cereals.

Strengthening our food cooperation, Australia and Taiwan have agreed to remove some regulatory requirements governing Australian organic produce – giving you greater access to our world-class organic foods. And we’ve worked closely with the Taiwan Agricultural and Research Institute on a pilot project to produce Taiwanese varieties of lychee fruit in Queensland.

Australia has also been one of Taiwan’s most important sources of coal for many years, but we share Taiwan’s ambitions for emissions reduction. Australia fulfilled our 2020 Renewable Energy Target a year early; in 2019, renewable energy made up 24 per cent of total electricity generation in Australia. We look forward to helping Taiwan achieve its own target, of 20 per cent by 2025.

Australia’s Macquarie Capital is one of the major investors and developers in Taiwan’s offshore wind industry. Macquarie Capital and partners successfully inaugurated the Formosa 1 Offshore Wind Farm, which is Taiwan’s first offshore wind project, generating clean electricity for approximately 128,000 households in Miaoli and Hsinchu area. The Formosa 2 Offshore Wind Farm is now under construction, and will mark one of Macquarie’s largest single investments.

Solar power also has great potential for collaboration between Australia and Taiwan – our reputation as a leader in R&D for solar photovoltaic and solar thermal, and Taiwan’s expertise in prototyping and commercialisation make us natural partners.

And Hydrogen provides yet another opportunity. Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy sets out to position Australia as a major player by 2030. We welcome Taiwanese involvement both as a consumer of, and investor in one of the most exciting energy sources of the future.

In the nearer term, a key element in reducing Taiwan’s greenhouse emissions will also be natural gas. In 2018 and 2019 respectively, CPC Corporation’s two LNG investments in Western Australia, Ichthys LNG and Prelude FLNG, commenced LNG shipments to Taiwan.

This brought us one step closer to achieving Taiwan’s goal of deriving 50 per cent of its electricity from LNG by 2025. We are currently Taiwan’s second largest, and we look forward to becoming Taiwan’s largest LNG supplier.

Energy and resources have, of course, long been one of the most important sectors for Taiwanese investments in Australia. Iconic Taiwanese investors such as CPC Corporation, Taipower, China Steel, and Formosa Plastics Group, have invested in many landmark Australian resources projects.

In recent years, we have seen interest from Taiwanese investors expand beyond the traditional energy sectors in areas such as solar, battery storage, financial services and biotechnology.

Nine Taiwanese banks have set up in Australia, representing the largest number of banks from one single economy with a presence in Australia.

And in terms of biotechnology, more than 20 Taiwanese companies have conducted clinical trials in Australia, primarily relating to early drug development. Two Australian companies have signed MOUs with the Taiwan Clinical Trials Consortium for collaboration in cross-market trials.

We’ve also worked closely with Taiwan’s Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Promotion Office, or BPIPO, to promote biomedical collaboration in 2020. This month Austrade is collaborating with BPIPO to deliver a workshop on Australian biomedical capability on the margins of the BioAsia Taiwan Expo, where eight Australian organisations are exhibiting.

Australia is at the leading edge of biotechnology research and clinical trial activity, and our cooperation will no doubt only grow from here.

But it’s undoubtedly the strong links between our people that give our relationship its greatest strength.

I know several of you here today have studied in Australia, and many more of you will have friends who have. Australia has become the second most popular overseas study destination for Taiwanese students since 2014, with over 18,000 Taiwanese students studying in Australia currently.

Australia is also very popular for its Working Holiday Maker program, which has so far attracted around 250,000 young Taiwanese to travel, work and study in Australia.

Our cultural links are also strong.

In 2019, iconic pieces from Taipei’s National Palace Museum, including the famous ‘meat-shaped stone’, headed to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time, with the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney hosting the Heaven and earth in Chinese art exhibition.

And some of Australia’s greatest cultural treasures were hosted by the National Taiwan Museum for the Old Masters exhibition. This showcased bark paintings by Indigenous artists from Arnhem Land in Australia’s far north, giving the people of Taiwan a rare chance to experience works from one of the world’s oldest continuing art traditions.

These are just some of the many examples of our broad and deep relationship with Taiwan.

As we now look forward to 2021 and beyond, we can cautiously hope for a return to some sense of normalcy, and a chance to get back to the many things that COVID has interrupted.

With that in mind, I congratulate Rotary in Taipei as you prepare to host the Rotary International Annual Convention in June next year. This will be a great opportunity to showcase both Rotary and Taiwan’s achievements.

And we at the Australian Office are also relaunching our relationship, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Australia in Taiwan over the coming year.

We will kick this off with a major event in November, where we will invite participants to ‘Rediscover Australia, Rediscover Taiwan’; and follow this up with an Education Fair that showcases our world class educational institutions.

In the meantime, we will continue to bring our world-famous products to you here; and hope to welcome you back to Australia in person soon.

I’d add briefly too that if you can’t wait for the opportunity to see Australia, you can catch a very impressive glimpse of it at i-Ride in Xinyi.

I had the opportunity to experience their new ‘Discover Australia’ ride at the launch last Friday. Although nothing is as good as being in Australia, this will certainly give you a taste of the country, and whet your appetite for a visit in the near future.