Taiwan Seeks Stronger Asia Ties to Overcome Reliance on China – 17 May 2017

  • “Go west!” is the mantra Taiwanese companies lived by for the best part of three decades, turning China into their biggest trading partner. But with cross-strait relations at their worst in close to a decade, President Tsai Ing-wen is urging firms to turn south.
  • Tsai wants to mitigate reliance on the mainland by bolstering trade with 18 countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia, including Australia and New Zealand, a departure from her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou’s promise of stronger growth through better ties with China.
  • But Taiwan must further strengthen regional relations with other governments if Tsai’s New Southbound policy is to succeed, top trade negotiator John Deng said in an interview in Taipei last week. The minister without portfolio said the main problem is that trade ties with Southeast Asia have often been based on personal relationships rather than formal government communications.
  • The Southbound policy’s target countries account for 22% of exports compared with around 40% for China. But while the mainland’s numbers are stagnating, Southeast Asia is increasingly becoming Taiwan’s driver of growth. Total exports rose 13.6% from Jan to Apr 17, with exports to Southeast Asia rising 17%.
  • The focus on Southeast Asia goes back to Taiwan’s first democratically elected president, Lee Teng-hui, who proposed the first “Go South” policy in the 1990s; his successor Chen Shui-bian continued the push. But when Ma took over in 2008, the focus switched firmly toward better relations and trade with China.
  • Beijing has claimed Taiwan as part of its territory, to be united by force if necessary, ever since the two sides split as the civil war drew to a stalemate in 1949. A prerequisite for countries dealing with China is dropping any official diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

External Link : https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-16/taiwan-seeks-stronger-asia-ties-to-overcome-reliance-on-china