Ex-Australian PM Tony Abbott arrives in Taiwan to speak at forum

10/05/2021 06:59 PM
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Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (right) is pictured at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. CNA photo Oct. 5, 2021
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (right) is pictured at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. CNA photo Oct. 5, 2021

Taoyuan, Oct. 5 (CNA) Former Australian Prime Minister (PM) Tony Abbott, who recently voiced support for Taiwan joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) regional trade bloc, arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday to attend an international forum later this week.

Abbot, who served as Australian PM from 2013-2015, arrived at Taoyuan International Airport on a Singapore Airline flight around 1:45 p.m. He was greeted by Taiwan's Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang (田中光).

The two men declined to give public statements at the airport.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Abbot is in Taiwan mainly to give a keynote address at the annual Yushan Forum that will be held on Friday.

The forum, which is being held for the fifth time this year, is a Taiwan-initiated regional dialogue that seeks to strengthen the nation's relationship with ASEAN countries, India, Australia and New Zealand.

During his stay in Taiwan, Abbot will also meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday, and other senior government officials, according to MOFA.

He is visiting Taiwan under a so-called "diplomatic bubble" that exempts him from undergoing certain COVID-19 prevention and quarantine measures, according to MOFA, without elaborating.

Under normal circumstances, all arrivals in Taiwan are required to quarantine for 14 days.

The former Australian PM recently expressed support for Taiwan joining the CPTPP, of which Australia is a member, even if it risks upsetting China.

Abbott said during an Australian joint parliamentary committee on Sept. 30 that he is "strongly in favor" of Taiwan joining the CPTPP and that the only argument against Taiwan being admitted is that it might upset China.

However, given the fact that China is not a member of the CPTPP and is unlikely to become a member of the trade bloc, "I don't see that China is going to be any more upset than it already is," he said in his testimony.

Abbott said any countries that want to sign up to the partnership need to "play by the rules," and there is no way that China should be allowed to join the CPTPP until it drops its trade boycotts of Australia and stops weaponizing trade.

Taiwan formally applied to join the agreement on Sept. 22, less than a week after China applied for membership of the CPTPP.

The CPTPP, which grew out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left the pact in January 2017, is one of the world's largest trade blocs, representing a market of 500 million people and accounting for 13.5 percent of global trade.

Its 11 signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Local experts have called on Taiwan's government to accelerate its preparations to join the CPTPP, especially as the nation is unlikely to be able to join the Beijing-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

(By Wu Juei-chi and Joseph Yeh)

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