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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday called on Australia to support its bid to join a pan-Pacific free trade pact during a meeting with a group of visiting Australian lawmakers.
Taiwan and China both applied in 2021 to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), but China says it opposes adding Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory.
The CPTPP is a landmark trade pact agreed upon in 2018 by 11 countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Britain was accepted as a member this year.
Tsai, meeting a cross-party delegation at the presidential office in Taipei, noted that Australia was Taiwan's largest energy supplier and a major source of agricultural goods.
"We look forward to the continued strengthening of economic and trade cooperation between Taiwan and Australia," Tsai said in comments released by her office. "We also hope that the Australian government and parliament will support Taiwan's accession to the CPTPP to jointly promote economic growth and sustainable development of the Indo-Pacific region."
Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell has said "every country has to agree to the accession of a new country" and CPTPP members were discussing how to consider new applications.
Australia, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Tsai said Australia has continued to play an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and has emphasised the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
"In this regard, I would like to express my sincere gratitude," she added. "Protecting the free and open Indo-Pacific region is the common goal of Taiwan and Australia."
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney. Editing by Gerry Doyle)