By Christine Chou, The China Post

The government appears to be stepping up its efforts to pivot toward Southeast Asia — and away from mainland China — as the Economics Ministry and national corporate groups joined hands Wednesday to announce the launch of the Committee on Asia-Pacific Industrial Cooperation (APIC, 亞太產業合作推動委員). The new government-backed committee, dedicated to promoting trade and business between Taiwan and six designated countries, will be headed by Economic Minister Lee Chih-kung (李世光) and Rock Hsu (許勝雄), chairman of the Chinese National Federation of Industries (工總), an industrial group representing a majority of the manufacturing businesses in Taiwan. In the first stage, the committee will consist of six teams focusing on Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India and the Philippines, each headed by a recognized industrial leader, Hsu said. Asked whether the responsibilities of the industrial cooperation would overlap with those of the existing Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA, 外貿協會), Hsu said the new group would focus more on providing Taiwanese firms on-the-ground advisory assistance overseas. “It can be helpful to think of in this way: the Economics Ministry has an Industrial Development Bureau and a separate Bureau of Foreign Trade. The Committee on Asia-Pacific Industrial Cooperation is similar to the Industrial Development Bureau, while TAITRA serves the function of the other,” Lee said.

“Many people might wonder why we are bringing (the Southbound policy) up again, as talk relating to pivot strategies is not new. It is because now, the timing is right,” Lee said. “Our society is rapidly aging, while Southeast Asian (societies) are facing population surplus and other regional development issues. This is a region we definitely cannot neglect.” It is not clear where the source of funding for the new association will be, but Lee said the Economic Ministry will provide the group with enough funds for its operations and events as “the Economic Ministry “has more than sufficient funds at present. “Funding isn’t going to be a problem since we see the Asia-Pacific Industrial Cooperation as one of our most important programs,” Lee said. Hsu said one of group’s goals was to hold a Taiwan-Indonesia Industrial Collaboration Summit by the end of the year.