Taiwan beckons …

Taiwan beckons …

Manik Mehta

GLOBALISATION is bringing nations closer to each other than ever before.

Taiwan is working feverishly to forge closer economic ties with Malaysia,

which is seen as an attractive trading and economic partner in the Asean


Even though Malaysia and Taiwan do not maintain official diplomatic

relations with each other because of mainland China, which considers the

island a `renegade province’ and insists that it returns to the

`motherland’s fold’, both Kuala Lumpur and Taipei have good economic ties.

Taiwanese officials and representatives of major industry and trade

associations in Taipei say that marrying Taiwan’s technological prowess

and financial strength with Malaysia’s rich diversity of natural and human

resources would produce a strong economic partnership between the two.

Given the official restrictions on Taiwanese companies to directly

invest in mainland China, Taiwanese corporations have also used Malaysia,

along with other countries, to invest in mainland China. Official

statistics show Taiwan’s cumulative foreign direct investments (FDI) in

China at US$ 35 billion, but experts say that the unofficial figure of US$

100 billion reflects a much more realistic picture.

Jwo Jong Jeng Paul, the chief secretary in the Board of Foreign Trade

(BOFT) in the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the island republic, says

this huge investment in China is `worrying’ because it reflects an

`asymmetrical dependence’ on one particular market. `You don’t put all

your eggs in one basket,’ he tells Malaysian Business. `We are interested

in diversifying our investments to other Asian markets, including


Jwo says that two-way trade between Taiwan and Malaysia amounted to US$

7.8 billion in 2003. Taiwan’s exports to Malaysia typically comprises of

information technology products, car components, machinery,

telecommunications and polyester fabrics, while imports from Malaysia

include electronic components, metals, chemicals, paper, rubber, palm oil,


Taiwan’s cumulative direct investments in Malaysia amounted to US$ 13

billion. Jwo says that despite the tight parameters within which Taiwan

must operate, thanks to the `political narrow-mindedness’ of mainland

China, the island has developed `excellent relations’ with Malaysia.

`There are many Taiwanese companies in Malaysia. The Chinese community of

Malaysia has good business with Taiwanese businesspeople,’ Jwo maintains.

More Malaysian businesspeople at Taipei trade shows

Taiwan’s hi-tech trade shows attract a large number of Malaysian


`For many Malaysian businesspeople, trade show participation is an

integral part of their marketing efforts,’ says Ronnie Huang, a Taiwanese

trader based near Kaoshiung, who has strong business ties with the Asean

region, including Malaysia.

Huang should know. He often meets his Malaysian business contacts at the

Taipei trade shows organised by the Taiwan External Trade Development

Council (TAITRA), the island’s trade promotion organisation.

While some of TAITRA’s consumer goods shows may be losing out to Hong

Kong’s rival events, Taipei’s hi-tech and industry shows have proven to be

bestsellers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Some of the favourite shows of Malaysian businesspeople include the

Taipei Plas (plastics & rubber international trade show), Timtos (machine-

tool), Semicon (semi-conductors), Computex (computer and software

industry) and the two Taitronics shows (electronic components/ equipment

and electronic finished products).

`These shows attract large numbers of Asians, including Malaysians.

Remember … Taiwan is a focal point in the Asia-Pacific region for a

number of industries such as plastics and rubber, machine tools, semi-

conductors, computers and software and, of course, electronics,’ explains

Ruey C Wang, TAITRA’s deputy executive director for exhibitions.

Demand for display space at some of these trade shows can be heavy, and

foreign exhibitors, including Malaysians, can sometimes be turned away

because of lack of display space. However, Shi-Wei Liu, the executive

director of the Taipei International Convention Center (TICC), which

manages the exhibition halls for the trade shows, expects more space to be

available in the future to accommodate exhibitors when the new exhibition

complex called the Nangang Exhibition Center in suburban Taipei goes into

operation in August 2006. The new centre will have a floor area of 140,000

sq metres, which is nearly three times the size of the floor area of

50,000 sq metres of the present exhibition centre.

The TICC executive director says that the four-in-one complex that makes

up the Taiwan World Trade Center (TWTC) provides a `one-stop-shop- service’

for the convenience of foreign exhibitors and buyers to spare them the

hassle of commuting within the city. `The idea behind this one- stop-shop-

service is to reduce the stress for exhibitors and visitors, and help them

save precious time. Aside from the exhibition hall and the administrative

offices, we also have a hotel right next to the exhibition ground. This is

a time-saving factor for exhibitors and visitors alike,’ says Liu.

Taiwan eyes Malaysian Chinese as a source of tourist traffic

Taiwan’s two airlines, China Airlines and Eva Air, have been courting

the Malaysian Chinese community not only in Malaysia but also abroad,

particularly in the United States which has a large Chinese community from

several Asian countries, including Malaysia.

`Taiwan has a much more culturally and ethnically interesting landscape

than, say, Hong Kong which is smaller and lacks the cultural and

historical landmarks that are interesting to Malaysian Chinese,’ says

Ronald Lin, a Penang-based Malaysian Chinese businessman who was shopping

in Taiwan for machinery parts and took time off for sightseeing.

Lin, a Buddhist, also visited Kaohshiung’s Fokuangshan Buddhist

monastery, rated as one of the world’s finest landmarks for its beautiful

and intricate architecture, and the huge and overpowering 120- feet-tall,

gold-coloured Amitabha Buddha statue. The towering statue is surrounded by

480 smaller statues of the Amitabha Buddha. For overseas Buddhists

visiting Taiwan, a visit to the monastery is something of a pilgrimage.

Medical tourism, particularly Chinese traditional medicine, is another

attraction for Malaysian Chinese. `We know that Malaysian Chinese are

interested in our traditional Chinese medical services,’ claims Michael

Wu, a Kaoshiung-based Chinese traditional practitioner who has patients

from Malaysia and other Asean countries.

As of December 2002, there were 36 Chinese medicine hospitals, 2,601

Chinese medicine clinics, and 4,101 licensed doctors of Chinese medicine

in Taiwan. Malaysian practitioners of Chinese medicine have also come to

some clinics in Taiwan for training in certain specialised forms of

Chinese medicine.

`We also have excellent landmarks in Taipei itself which can be

appealing to overseas visitors, particularly overseas Chinese,’ reminds

Bruce Liu, the deputy director of international affairs, Tourism Bureau,

Ministry of Transportation, in an interview with Malaysian Business. The

Chang Kai-shek Memorial and the Chinese National Palace Museum, both of

which are treasure houses of national and cultural artifacts, documenting

important milestones of Chinese history, have a strong appeal to overseas

Chinese, including many from Malaysia.

Unlike Malaysia, where tourism is the second largest source of revenue

after manufacturing, Taiwan’s tourism sector has taken a backseat in the

past. `This is going to change now. Tourism is a priority sector to us,’

Liu maintains.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s hotels are gearing up to cater to not only Western

tourists but also Asian ones. Michael Hsueh, the director of marketing and

sales at Howard Plaza Hotel in Taipei, points out that his hotel does not

cater merely Western cuisine. `Our breakfast lounge, for example, provides

a wide range of ethnic Chinese food which is palatable to our guests from

anywhere in Asia – be it Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore or Hong Kong,’ he


Some hotels in Taipei are even thinking of introducing popular food

items of individual countries, particularly at times when the number of

travellers from some countries is at its peak. The popular Malaysian roti

canai could well be on the menu of some hotels in Taipei, particularly

during international trade fairs and exhibitions which attract large

numbers of exhibitors and trade visitors from Malaysia and Singapore.

`This is one way to attract guests from certain countries, but it remains

to be seen whether this will be possible. But don’t forget, Taiwan also

needs chefs familiar with the specific food preparation,’ says a

spokesperson for the Taiwan Hotels’ Association.

Copyright 2004

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