But Mr O`Brien said the continuation of a free trade agreement with Taiwan was consistent with Australia`s belief in trade liberalization. Any steps taken to conclude a formal economic agreement with Taiwan could reignite tensions with China, which has claimed sovereignty over the island state since the end of China`s civil war in 1949. Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have held meetings in recent weeks with Taiwanese government counterparts to discuss other trade opportunities. While a possible bilateral trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States explodes most of the headlines, Taiwanese diplomats have often hinted that they want a formal trade deal with Australia. In recent months, Tsai has repeatedly ended his hopes of such a pact. While the Australian government has ruled out withdrawing from a free trade agreement with Taiwan at the time, the two countries are discussing over-options to boost exports to self-democracy for 23 million people. Asked about the risk of further upsetting Beijing with a free trade agreement with Taiwan, Senator Canavan said Australia “should not allow another country to dictate with whom to enter into agreements.” President Tsai Ing-wen has prioritized Taiwan-Australia relations as part of her New Southbound policy, and there is momentum on both sides towards a possible trade agreement. O`Brien stressed that other countries have negotiated trade agreements with Taiwan without facing negative consequences from Beijing and said at the Australian Financial Expo in September that trade with Taipei would meet the government`s desire to liberalize trade. Australia presented trade talks with Taiwan in 2016, fearing they would anger Beijing. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison`s government was poised to back Taiwan with a bang and joined a group of nations that requested its admission to the World Health Assembly in May. Australia has moved away from plans for a free trade agreement with Taiwan in 2018, after China warned that an agreement would affect relations between Beijing and Canberra. In recent times, as tensions between Beijing and Canberra have escalated, more and more Australian officials have begun to call for a trade deal. Queensland Liberal MP Ted O`Brien said in September that Australia should work to conclude a free trade agreement with Taiwan and support Taiwan`s membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull backed a Taiwan-Australia trade deal in October.