New Southbound Policy Q&A

New Southbound Policy Q&A
Photo Credit: 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen

What you need to know

‘Taiwan does not need to compete with others, but must instead try its best to make use of its strengths.’

Following news on Friday that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) Presidential Office-level New Southbound Policy Coordination Office is to be merged with the Executive Yuan, the Cabinet today held a press conference to officially launch the new initiative.

National Development Council (NDC) Deputy Minister Kao Shien-quey (高仙桂) said the policy comports four main directions: economic and trade cooperation, interactions between professionals, sharing resources, and connecting local regions.

Kao said ASEAN countries have a total population of 600 million while India has 1.3 billion, and is a potential market for Taiwan as an alternative to China. The New Southbound Policy targets 18 countries, including the ASEAN nations, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Australia, and New Zealand.

“[Most of these countries] are growing, and they need infrastructure,” which is an opportunity for Taiwan, Kao said.

NDC Minister John Deng (鄧振中) said Taiwan should find its own advantage, such as the strong bond built by exchange students and businesspeople in Southeast Asia for years.

Kao and Deng answered a few questions today. The highlights:

Differences between the new and the old

According to Kao, the differences between President Tsai’s New Southbound Policy and previous ones include a broadening of the industries to include medical and cultural industries instead of only focusing on technology and agriculture. In addition, the government aims to strengthen direct bilateral relationship by establishing more institutes in Southeast Asian countries, including governmental offices and college branches, and to encourage the young generation to go there.

How will the educational policy operate?

Among all the government units under the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has one of the clearest plans regarding the New Southbound Policy so far, Kao said.

According to the MOE’s policy outline, it aims to increase the number of foreign students studying in Taiwan from targeted countries to 58,000 by 2019, with 20 percent growth every year. Additionally, internships in these countries will also be financially supported. Kao said the MOE has already included the internships in its annual budget.

Will companies relocate abroad and reduce job opportunities in Taiwan?

Deng said there will not be a wild relocation tide after the policy takes effect. Kao also emphasized that Southeast Asian markets will only be an extension, and not a replacement, for the limited market in Taiwan.

Kao said the administration will encourage e-commerce businesses and other technological innovation businesses to promote their brands there. The government will also provide investment guides to them by issuing reports about investment security in the region regularly.

How to compete with China?

Asked how the government will react to China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which could get in the way of the New Southbound Policy, Deng said there is no need to challenge China. Taiwan does not need to compete with others, but must instead try its best to make use of its strengths, he said.

“I have heard many people from the Southeast Asia telling me they like to do business with Taiwanese. This is also our advantage,” Deng said.

First Editor: J. Michael Cole
Second Editor: Olivia Yang