Still plenty of positives for Taiwan economy

By Billy Chamberlin, The China Post

Media reports have focused heavily on Taiwan’s future competitiveness in the face of mainland China’s growing prominence, internal political wrangling, and domestic companies moving offshore. The Taiwan International Trade (TIT) quarterly’s newest issue, published by the Importers & Exporters Association of Taipei and edited by The China Post, takes a look at these concerns by investigating the island’s IT industry. Hoping to provide a balance to the barrage of pessimistic reports in the media, which even President Chen Shui-bian said has added to the country’s woes, the quarterly takes a look at some of Taiwan’s growing sectors and companies which continue to outperform despite a global economic slowdown. Examining the IT sector and using Computex Taipei 2001 as a litmus test, the magazine looks not only at how important Asia’s largest computer and IT exhibition has become to companies around the world, but also at the new threat from Shanghai’s CeBit Asia, due to kick off tomorrow.

Beyond IT hardware, Taiwan travel agencies have found an e-commerce model that seemingly works, helping give the island a foothold as the government pushes to move from its manufacturing base to a knowledge-based economy. The quarterly also gives readers a retrospect on Taiwan’s leap from television maker to PC powerhouse in an attempt to forecast future trends for the island, reporting on the strong gains Taiwan companies are making in the fields of CD-ROM and CD-R technology, as well as thin-film transistor — liquid crystal displays (TFT-LCD).

The island’s late move into the telecom industry’s third-generation (3G) is also expected to be beneficial to Taiwan companies. Earlier auctions in Europe, riding all the hype of 3G possibilities, have saddled European companies with billions of dollars of debt, paying over US$100 billion in total for a variety of license fees. But it is the island’s push into the emerging biotechnology sector that has generated the most optimism. With the central government pledging NT$165 billion to the sector over the next five years. Some say Taiwan stands poised to ride the next wave of development similar to its previous successes in the semiconductor industry. Even beyond the IT industry, Taiwan’s competitiveness in more traditional industries can still rival those of cheap labor economies. An example is the automobile parts industry on the island, which is expected to continue growing strongly this year. Rounding out the magazine are comments on Taiwan’s prospects from three European consultants, a look at award-winning products from Taiwan companies, and a walk on the island’s lighter side — its culture and tourism attractions.