The Executive Yuan yesterday touted the success of its New Southbound Policy in the COVID-19 era after official statistics showed double-digit percentage increases in trade over the past six months.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) New Southbound Policy, which targets 18 countries in the Indo-Pacific region, aims to expand the nation’s markets beyond China.
The 18 countries are: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Trade with the 18 amounted to US$68.4 billion in the first half of this year, rising 32.14 percent from a year earlier, the Office of Trade Negotiations said.
Taiwanese exports to these countries amounted to US$38.898 billion in the first six months of this year, growing 36.32 percent from a year earlier, the office said.
Imports increased to US$29.503 billion, up 27.02 percent from a year earlier, it said.
Agricultural trade with these countries reached US$2.97 billion during the same period, rising 12.3 percent from a year earlier, it said.
Exports of agricultural products grew 19.5 percent to US$680 million, while outbound shipments of agricultural chemicals and machinery jumped 31.7 percent to US$10 million, it said.
The improvement could be attributed to a global economic rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, the office said.
So far this year, Taiwanese enterprises have proposed investing US$2.244 billion in 60 projects in these countries, up 58.87 percent year-on-year, it said.
The most significant would-be recipients of the proposed investments are Singapore, Vietnam and Australia, it added.
Meanwhile, New Southbound Policy partners are investing US$297 million in Taiwan via 255 government-approved projects, up 57.5 percent year-on-year, it said.
Thailand, Singapore and Australia are the biggest investors among the 18 countries, it said.
The Tsai administration is providing guidance via a special initiative to 36 small and medium-sized enterprises that do business in the 18 countries, it said.
These businesses are involved in computer gaming in the Philippines, fitness apps and gadgets in Singapore, interactive communication in Australia, cosmetics in Malaysia and the restaurant industry in Indonesia, it said.
The initiative focuses on the use of digital tools as well as cooperating with local retail venues, including online and brick-and-mortar stores, it said.
Last year, 37,296 foreign students from the 18 countries enrolled in degree programs in Taiwan, up 3.4 percent from 2019.
At the same time, 20,551 Taiwanese students went to these countries as part of an exchange or degree program, down 5.7 percent from 2019, it said, attributing the decline to the effects of the pandemic.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs in April opened schools across the nation to provide instructions on doing business in foreign countries, including those covered by the policy, it said.
As of June, the schools had trained 47 people out of a planned 140, it said.
Taiwanese construction firms have won eight public contracts worth US$142 million from New Southbound Policy trade partners, it said.
The projects relate to energy production, petrochemicals, intelligent transportation, environmental engineering and water resource management, it said.
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