Fri, Dec 27, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Investors blind to `go south' policy, council study finds

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite the government's determination to push the "go south" policy, statistics released at a legislative subcommittee meeting yesterday challenged the official line.

According to a report by the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD), Tai-wan's investment in the region has fallen dramatically.

"Southeast Asian countries are our best neighbors. We'll suffer a great loss if we fail to conduct close economic exchanges with them," Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said in his defense of the "go south" policy.

Cornered by lawmakers of various political stripes at the subcommittee meeting, officials were quick to defend the policy first initiated by the administration of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in 1994 and then picked up by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

But official statistics on Taiwan's trade with and investment in Southeast Asian countries since the policy was first put in place in 1994 show Taiwan's investment compass is pointing in a different direction.

From 1994 to 1996, Taiwan's investment in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam totalled US$13.54 billion, according to the CEPD report.

From 1997 to 1999, the figure for investment in the six nations fell to US$8.04 billion, according to the CEPD report.

The amount of Taiwanese investment in these countries further decreased to US$3.1 billion for 2000 to September of this year, the report said.

"It's true that Taiwan's investment flow into Southeast Asia was at its peak from 1994 to 1996," CEPD vice chairperson Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) said at the committee meeting.

Taiwan's trade volume with these six neighbors totalled 11 percent to 13 percent of the country's total trade over the past few years, the report said.

Chien said that China's current position as the world's top destination for foreign investment has affected Taiwan's dwindling investment in Southeast Asia.

"Political headaches, such as anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia, as well as the threat of terrorism in the region have also dissuaded Taiwanese investment from going there," Chien said.

According to the report by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwanese investment in South-east Asia has seen "a large decrease" in the first nine months of this year, with Vietnam serving as an exception.

Taiwanese investment in Vietnam increased by 27.14 percent for the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year, the ministry report said.

Southeast Asia, however, serves as Taiwan's most important supplier of foreign workers. According to government figures, there are about 306,657 workers from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia working in Taiwan as of the end of last month.

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