The Taiwan-India Cooperation Council was established in Taipei on Feb. 11 to promote commercial ties between India and Taiwan and to diversify Taiwan's investment options. This opens a new chapter in trade and economic relations between the two countries.
India's economy has performed impressively in recent years, with GDP growth rising to 8 percent toward the third quarter of last year, and its stock market soaring by 42.34 percent last year. According to a report commissioned by the Council of Economic Planning and Development, following a series of rigorous reforms affected by the Indian government over the past few years, ther are an estimated 300 million new middle-class consumers across India, 12 million of which have an average annual salary of US$12,000.
As many Indians are fluent in English, Indian software engineers and managerial-level professionals are on a par with those of other advanced Western countries. Besides, India is now regarded as a market with great potential, as its auto, biotech and engineering industries have laid the foundations for the country's economic growth in recent years.
India is not that remote from Taiwan. The distance between Taipei and Calcutta is shorter than that between Taipei and Jakarta, and is almost the same distance from Taipei to Singapore.
However, cumulative trade between Taiwan and India has amounted to less than US$3 billion. As of the end of last year, Taiwan's investment in India totalled less than US$20 million. When compared to the US$280 billion cumulatively invested in China since 1990 this only makes one despair.
Language and education dictate a nation's economic performance. In Taiwan, elementary school students grow up studying the splendor and greatness of ancient Chinese civilization in a systematic fashion. Each student is also required to learn ancient Chinese poetry by heart. Naturally, when these students grow up, they may harbor an illusion that China is an affluent country and that the Chinese live in fairyland. This is why so many Taiwanese are eager to jump on the "China fever" bandwagon.
In fact, in the 1980s, when Taiwan's China-bound investment was still severely restricted, the government's "Go South" policy was actually very successful. The policy motivated many Taiwanese investors to travel to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines and make investments there, which turned out to be quite successful.
However, in the 1990s, when the government sought to relax its restraints on China-bound investment, its efforts to encourage Taiwanese businessmen to invest in Southeast Asian countries came to a halt. Although some believe that China has cheaper labor and a huge potential market, against which other nations in Southeast Asia cannot compete, India also has cheap labor able to meet quality standards and a market of 1.1 billion people, which is only slightly smaller than that of China.
So we must seriously consider why Taiwanese businessmen prefer to invest in China and have only poured a meager US$20 million into the Indian market.
Minister of Economic Affairs Morgan Hwang (黃營杉) recently pointed out that "Taiwan and India can complement each other in the electronics and information technology sectors. Our two nations can create a win-win situation if Taiwan can seek to integrate its expertise in hardware with India's software resources."