Taiwan should look to the 10 Southeast Asian nations that comprise ASEAN for future “investments, talent cultivation and cooperation,” Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said at a forum promoting Taiwan-ASEAN relations yesterday.
Wang was joined by heads of other government departments for a review of the government’s New Southbound Policy, which President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) initiated after her inauguration in 2016.
“Looking back, we seized the moment at exactly the right time,” Wang said.
As global supply chains are rapidly transforming amid US-China trade tensions, Taiwanese companies have doubled down on their strategic investments in ASEAN member states, Wang said.
According to preliminary trade figures released by the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday, Taiwan’s exports to ASEAN reached US$45.78 billion in the first eight months of this year, up 35.5 percent year-on-year.
“Trade will not be the only kind of relationship between Taiwan and the ASEAN countries in the future; the nurturing and exchange of talented people will be a tremendously important aspect, and will pave the way for increased cooperation on a nation-to-nation basis,” Wang said.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs is in talks with the National Development Council (NDC), the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor about how to move forward on Taiwan-ASEAN ties, she said.
“There is a lot to think about as Taiwan stands up to the challenge of globalization,” Wang said. “There may be surprising new directions for the New Southbound Policy in the works.”
NDC Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) said at the forum that Taiwan’s businesses and industries would take a different tack when approaching their ASEAN investments.
“In the 1980s, Taiwanese companies were forced to leave Taiwan due to costs, but 2016 was a watershed year when they returned, with their investments, to Taiwan,” Kung said. “Now when they extend their reach to other nations, they are doing so strategically and deliberately.”
“As China becomes more conservative and closed off, and the ASEAN countries plus India become more open, the choice is clear,” he said.
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