TAIPEI (CNA) — The government’s New Southbound Policy has produced a sharp increase in the number of students and visitors from the targeted countries since it was launched in 2016, the Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations said on May 23.
In the period 2016-2018, the number of students in Taiwan from the 18 countries listed in the policy rose 60.8 percent, from 32,318 to 51,970, senior trade negotiator Hsiao Chen-jung (蕭振榮) said at a press conference, citing the office’s statistics.
A similar increase was recorded in the number of tourists from the 18 countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Australasia over the three-year period, Hsiao said, citing the data that showed a 58 percent growth, from 913,248 visitors to about 1.4 million.
Alongside those figures, the number of weekly flights from the 18 countries to Taiwan climbed from 473 to 609 over the same period, he said at the press conference at the Executive Yuan (Cabinet).
Meanwhile, the movement of people also flowed in the other direction, as evidenced by a 34.7 percent increase in the number of Taiwanese students going to the 18 countries to study, from 15,662 in 2016 to 21,100 last year, Hsiao said.
The policy has also produced results in the area of trade, Hsiao said, adding that Taiwan’s total trade volume with the 18 targeted countries climbed from US$96 billion in 2016 to US$117.1 billion in 2018. During that period, exports increased from US$59.5 billion to US$68.4 billion, and imports from US$36.6 billion to US$48.7 billion, he said.
In addition, a 66 percent increase was recorded in foreign investment flows from the 18 countries to Taiwan, climbing from US$235.91 million to US$391.54 million over the three-year period, Hsiao said.
On the question why Taiwan’s export volume to the 18 countries fell by 10.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019, Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中), who heads the trade negotiation office, said trade statistics can be more accurately interpreted over a longer period of time.
“At the moment, there are drastic changes taking place in the international arena,” Deng said. “While we should take heed of (the drop in exports), we should not see it as a sign of long-term decline.”
He said there is room for optimism, as demand for Taiwanese products remains stable in the 10 ASEAN member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand, which are listed in the government’s New Southbound Policy.
With regard to the office’s goals for this year, Deng said the government will draw up concrete plans to facilitate greater cooperation in the area of health, given the interest expressed by some of the 18 countries in that type of cooperation, and in light of the changing global economic environment.
His office will also push for major investment projects with the targeted countries, he said. “Apart from those two areas, we’ve been working steadily to build exchanges in other areas such as tourism, education, and agriculture,” Deng said.
The New Southbound Policy is a flagship policy launched by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in 2016 with the goal of reducing Taiwan’s economic dependence on China and building stronger links with South and Southeast Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.
By Stacy Hsu