Australia has abandoned plans for a free trade agreement with Taiwan after China warned the deal would harm relations with Beijing, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned former Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop that China opposed any boosting of ties between Australia and the independence-leaning government of Tsai Ing-wen at a series of meetings in 2017 and 2018, according to the October 24 report.
“The Chinese government made it clear to me that circumstances had changed between Taiwan and mainland China and that China would not look favourably on Australia seeking to pursue a free trade agreement with Taiwan, as New Zealand had done some years ago,” Ms Bishop told Fairfax Media.
Taiwan only has free trade agreements with two non-allies: Singapore, and New Zealand. Both agreements were signed under the previous pro-China KMT party administration.
New Zealand has since benefited from the agreement, undercutting Australian export prices for dairy products sold in the Taiwan market.
The Tsai government is seeking to strengthen trade relations with countries including Australia under its “New Southbound Policy,” which seeks to reduce economic reliance on China.
An unnamed senior Taiwanese official is quoted in the SMH report as saying, “We understand the difficult political situation Australia faces…We will be patient.”
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