TAIPEI, Taiwan — Alice Cawte heads up the Australian Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO). She studied History at university before joining the Australian Public Service. She has worked in Beijing and Noumea (New Caledonia) and, of course, Canberra. She first came to Taiwan in 1991 to study Chinese.
The China Post: So how’s your Chinese?
Alice Cawte: 比上不足，比下有餘 Learning Chinese, especially as an adult, has been immensely challenging, but also rewarding.
CP: What were your impressions of Taiwan, and favorite things about Taiwan?
ALICE: Taipei is one of the most liveable cities in Asia, and the Taiwan people very welcoming. The mountains are breathtaking.
CP: What did you bring in your suitcase as gifts from Australia?
ALICE: Australian wine, particularly red, because I knew that Taiwanese appreciate good wine.
CP: What are the hottest products between Taiwan and Australia?
ALICE: Taiwanese people understand quality and value and appreciate Australian wine and food, including our beef, lamb and dairy. Our smart manufactures have also been successful here: for example, the Australian company Cochlear has supplied to Taiwan several thousand implant devices that allow profoundly deaf people to hear.
CP: How is the relationship with Taiwan particularly under the new Rudd (陸克文) Administration?
ALICE: Australia’s relations with Taiwan are dynamic and broad-ranging. We are important economic partners — last year our bilateral merchandise trade was worth more than $10 billion Australian dollars, while our investment links now total $6 billion. Long-standing cultural and people-to-people links underpin relations.
CP: How many Taiwanese visit Australia?
ALICE: Some 80,000 Taiwanese visited Australia last year, including more than 6000 under our working holiday maker arrangement with Taiwan which allows young people to study and work in Australia for 12 months.
CP: Is it true Brisbane is particularly popular due to its climate?
ALICE: Yes, Brisbane is temperate like Taiwan, and has been a popular destination for Taiwanese for generations. Brisbane now has a vibrant Taiwanese community of more than 30,000, who, with the help of frequent and direct air links, maintain strong links with Taiwan.
CP: How many Australians are in Taiwan? And what draws Australians here?
ALICE: We estimate there are some 7,000 Australians living in Taiwan and around 45,000 visited in 2007. Family ties and business opportunities draw them here; some work in multinational corporations and financial institutions; some are local business owners; others work in education and other fields, including hospitality, computing, architecture and engineering.
CP: What type of educational opportunities exist in Australia?
ALICE: Australia has some of the world’s best universities, as well as world-class colleges and vocational training institutions. Universities and colleges offer programs leading to bachelors and to post-graduate degrees, including higher degrees by research. We have a number of scholarships available too. Other institutions offer shorter courses, including in English. (Readers should visit www.aec.org.tw)
CP: How many Taiwanese are studying in Australia? How popular is education a reason for Taiwanese going there?
ALICE: Our records show some 10,000 Taiwanese enrollments in 2007 in a range of academic and professional courses. The opportunity to gain a first-class education in a safe environment and the same time zone as Taiwan has been a big factor in attracting Taiwanese to Australia.
CP: Would you recommend Aussies come visit Taiwan?
Alice: Absolutely and without hesitation.
CP: What are the top destinations for Australians here and for Taiwanese in Australia?
ALICE: While we haven’t surveyed Australians’ top destinations in Taiwan, we understand many come to enjoy Taipei’s excellent restaurants and exciting nightlife, while an increasing number, myself included, are keen to experience Taiwan’s national parks, including by bicycle.
Taiwanese visiting Australia target the Great Barrier Reef and the Gold Coast in Queensland; the Opera House and Harbour in Sydney; Parliament House and the War Memorial in Canberra; along with the beaches and bush all over Australia.
CP: What are the future plans of your office?
ALICE: To name a few: the Australian Business Centre — the trade promotion arm of ACIO — is organizing the visit to Taiwan in December by renowned international wine critic James Halliday. Next year, we will be hosting a “Working Holiday Makers Exhibition” in Taipei and Kaohsiung — details are available at www.austrade.org.tw. ACIO will also be supporting the Taiwan premiere of the film “Australia,” starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, in December.
CP: What services/social events are offered by ACIO every year?
ALICE: While the ACIO doesn’t itself host social events, I would refer anyone interested in meeting Australians in Taiwan to the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (www.anzcham.org.tw).