Bountiful South: Soaring sky high:Taiwan-Vietnam ties - Taipei Times
Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Bountiful South: Soaring sky high:Taiwan-Vietnam ties

With the support of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, the dynamic relationship between the two countries is expanding through tourism, education and exchanges

By Liam Gibson  /  Contributing Reporter

A performance troupe donning Vietjet flight attendant uniforms performs at the opening ceremony of the airline’s first flight path between Taiwan and Vietnam in December 2014 at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. The airline has since opened five more flights between the two countries.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

When then-President of South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, flew into Taipei’s Songshan Airport on April 25, 1975, the flight not only symbolically ended his 10-year tenure as leader of the now extinct country, but was the last plane to fly between Taiwan and Vietnam for almost two decades. The fall of Saigon heralded the end for Taiwan’s closest Southeast Asian ally, and with Vietnam united under its new communist government, relations between the countries froze over. Today, however, with the cold war long over, airplanes are now propelling ties between the two nations forward again.

Last month, Vietjet said that it had carried over one million passengers between the two countries since it first began flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Taipei in December, 2014. It has since opened another five flights to accommodate the soaring tourism demand, which saw a rise last year of 117 percent.

Tourism is just the latest area where Taiwan and Vietnam are experiencing ever-strengthening ties, building on three decades of exchange in areas of business and investment, spousal migration and language education.

FIRST IN THE DOOR

The freeze in trade ties thawed quickly soon after the Vietnamese government began implementing its 1987 policy of Doi Moi or “opening the doors.”

Taiwanese enterprises were among the first to take advantage of the country’s low-cost labor pool and latent market potential, initially clustering in Ho Chi Minh City’s industrial hub, before spreading further northward over the following years.

Typical of Taiwanese investment patterns, it was mostly driven by small and medium-sized enterprises, with the highest concentration in chemical product and construction material manufacturing.

In order to better facilitate import-export links, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA, 外貿協會) opened offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in March 1991, as bilateral trade continued to skyrocket.

The Vietnamese government were particularly keen to learn from Taiwan’s success in labor-intensive, export-oriented industries, and commercial ties between the countries were enhanced further when Taipei Economic and Cultural offices were opened in both cities the following year.

By 1997, total bilateral trade had grown over a thousand-fold, reaching US$1.7 billion. Over the same period, Taiwan’s investments in Vietnam reached over US$4.7 billion, cementing its position as the largest foreign direct investor for the country well into the 2000s.

Current initiatives under the New Southbound Policy are now building upon the business networks that have continued to develop since, with the nation’s state-owned enterprises taking a lead role.

Last year, Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp (TTL) made their debut in the Vietnamese beer market, the largest in Southeast Asia. With Vietnam’s beer consumption reaching 3.8 billion liters last year, TTL aims to market its flagship pineapple-flavored beer to differentiate the Taiwan brand, and offer the local market something unique.

State-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan’s (CPC, 台灣中油) new jointly-run lubrication plant is under construction in Dong Nai Province and is due to begin operation next year.

And just last week, Truong Nam, CEO of Vietnamese water supply company HueWACO, called for deeper collaboration with Taiwan Water’s A-Team (台灣水資源 A-Team), a group of 26 of Taiwan’s top irrigation engineering enterprises, as he led a delegation to tour Taiwan’s renewable water system.

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