As Taiwan's trade deficit with South Korea has surged by 50 percent last year from the previous year, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA, 外貿協會) is drafting marketing plans to close the enlarging gap this year.
"This is a very important issue to us this year ? we have preliminarily outlined 27 marketing proposals to sell more products to South Korea, hoping to help balance the trade imbalance," Hsu Chih-jen (許志仁), chairman of TAITRA, said during TAITRA's year-end press conference yesterday.
Hsu did not elaborate on the plans.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Taiwan's trade deficit with South Korea for the first 11 months of last year was US$5.62 billion, and is estimated to exceed a record US$6 billion for the entire year, despite Taiwan's exports to South Korea increasing by 19 percent. Integrated circuit, liquid-crystal equipment and petrochemical materials account for 90 percent of South Korean imports.
Apart from reducing the trade deficit with South Korea, Hsu said that TAITRA hopes to expand overseas markets for Taiwanese businesspeople this year.
The council plans to open 10 more overseas offices in Thailand, Indonesia, Romania, Ukraine, South Africa, Chile and Barcelona and other emerging markets, he said.
TAITRA has 35 overseas offices, which is far less than its Japanese counterpart's 77 branches, and the Korea-Trade Investment Promotion Agency's (KOTRA) 104 offices.
As far as trade exhibitions are concerned, Hsu said that there is an urgent need to establish a large-scale venue for big exhibitions.
Despite adding a third hall to the Taipei World Trade Center, Hsu said Taiwan should have one that can contain up to 5,000 booths, or the nation may lose its competitive edge to Hong Kong, South Korea and even China. Such a space can also be used to host the 2008 Taiwan Exposition, Hsu said.
Frank Huang (黃孝寬), executive director of TAITRA's exhibition department, said the council proposed to the Ministry of Economic Affairs that the the hall be erected in Taoyuan, given that the location would be close to CKS International Airport as well as both metropolitan Taipei and the Hsinchu Science Park (新竹科學園區).
With the profit margins of high-tech and electronic goods getting slimmer due to fierce competition, TAITRA will put more efforts into promoting agricultural products that Hsu said could create multiple profits.
The council hosted several festivals and exhibitions to market homegrown agricultural products such as bananas, mangos, papayas and genetically modified rice in various countries last year, and received fairly high evaluations from consumers.
This year, TAITRA will further help farmers to establish their own brand names, as well as strengthen food safety certification to increase consumer confidence, Hsu said.