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ME to play key role in Taiwan growth

Manama, July 6, 2014

The Middle East region has a significant role to play in Taiwan's dynamic and export-driven economy, said a top official of the Asian country.

With foreign trade a major thrust of Taiwan's development, the Middle East is well-suited to act as a major hub for Taiwanese goods, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, citing the official.

"The region is strategically positioned to be a transit point for Taiwanese goods," Ministry of Economic Affairs Bureau of Foreign Trade deputy director general Cynthia Wen-Jo Kiang said.

"We are planning to establish a transit warehouse in the Middle East which would act as a hub for our goods.

"The Middle East region is vital for our imports too, particularly oil and energy,'' she added.

Seventy per cent of Taiwan's oil imports are from the Middle East, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research Macroeconomic Forecasting Centre deputy director Dr Darson Chiu said.

"The Middle East region also offers an excellent market for Taiwan's goods. There is a lot of scope to improve this further," he added.

Taiwan has a trade mission in Bahrain. There are diplomatic missions in other countries in the region including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Jordan.

The total trade between Bahrain and Taiwan stands at $345 million, according to recent figures.

In 2012, Bahrain imported $67 million worth of goods and services from Taiwan and exported $277 million.

One of the four Asian Tigers, alongside Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore, Taiwan has achieved rapid growth over the last six decades.

It has successfully transformed itself from an agricultural society to a major player in the global information and technology industry.

From 1952 to 2012, Taiwan achieved a high growth rate of 7.3 per cent. This was mainly due to the government's flexible policies and far-reaching development strategy.

Taiwan has also sought outward development opportunities and expand its trade links to drive economic growth. It is now the 20th largest exporter in the world and 18th largest importer. Taiwan weathered the 2008 financial crisis well and it recovered to post a growth of 10.76 per cent in 2010.

But the euro zone debt crisis and global slowdown had its effect on Taiwan. The growth rate fell to 4.19 per cent in 2011 and 1.48 per cent in 2012.

Taiwan sees China as a key trade player as the global recovery takes hold. However, there are contentious issues between the two countries which need to be resolved.

"Our trade relations with China is very important to us," Deputy Minister Mainland Affairs Council Executive Yuan Dr Chu-chia Lin said.

"Despite the many political issues before us, we are working towards improving our trade relations. The issue of unification with the mainland is a very important one.

"Opinion is divided over it. But 85 per cent of the people prefer the situation to be status quo at the moment. But we will put aside all issues of dispute and move forward.

"We are planning a liason office in China and then in Taiwan. Hopefully we can set it up by next year," Dr Lin said.

"There is a lot of scope in tourism beside trade with China.

"We have as many as 858 direct flights to and from China. The tourism figures have also improved.

"More than Chinese 2.8m tourists visited Taiwan last year," he added.

"People from China like coming to Taiwan. They enjoy Taiwanese society, and are attracted to our night markets and many of our television shows."

However, any trade agreement with China has its share of problems.

The Sunflower Student Movement in March and April this year against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement illustrates how divided the opinion is on trade ties.

The agreement is yet to be ratified.

"There are also a lot of social issues involved here. There have been no salary increases for some time and housing problems," Dr Lin said.

There are other trade problems too.

"There is the issue of e-commerce with China. China has been blocking its Internet which has affected many of our small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from conducting trade with the mainland.

"However, we are hoping that the situation will improve as there are many benefits from having trade ties with China," he said.

"Taiwan is economically strong. We are seeking to diversify our exports to strengthen the economy. We want to make Taiwan stronger," he added.

To do that, Taiwan is looking at emerging markets, including the Middle East, to diversify its exports.

"Emerging markets hold a lot of potential for us," stated Kiang.

"We may not have diplomatic relations with some of the countries. But politics does not matter for launching a trade push," she added.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: economy | Exports | Taiwan |

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