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Premier strikes a pragmatic note, touts New Southbound Policy progress and prospects


Premier Lin Chuan today re-emphasized the importance of the New Southbound Policy, calling on all government agencies involved to take a pragmatic approach, and move forward by enhancing economic and trade relations, personnel exchanges, and regional cooperation with the policy's target countries.

In remarks following a briefing by the Executive Yuan's Office of Trade Negotiations, the premier said that concrete achievements require the agencies involved to pool their resources together to promote core policy objectives and focus on five flagship projects: developing industrial personnel, cooperation in the field of public health, developing industrial chains, innovative industrial cooperation, developing regional agricultural industries, and promoting a New Southbound Policy forum and youth exchange platform. Promotional planning by all agencies should highlight these core tasks, he said.

In its briefing, the Office of Trade Negotiations said that government agencies have formulated numerous plans to improve external relations with the 18 target countries, focusing on economic and trade cooperation, personnel exchanges, resource sharing and regional links. These plans will work to enhance overall connectivity with the target countries, adding a new dynamism to future national development efforts.

Some of these plans will take time, and some have already shown tangible results, the office said. The plan to implement more relaxed visa procedures, promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Interior since the new administration took office last year, is one example. Between June 2016 and March 2017, tourists from the target countries have made over 1.6 million visits to Taiwan, 22.61 percent more than the same period last year. Between January and March of this year, tourist visits from the target countries also grew 33.26 percent year-on-year, the office said.

Between June 2016 and March 2017, the growth in trade volume (imports and exports) with the target countries (10.11 percent) also outstripped the growth rate (7.76 percent) in Taiwan's total global trade. So to date, the government's plan to promote economic and trade cooperation with the target countries has clearly yielded significant initial returns.

In the field of education, the Ministry of Education reported that for the 2016 academic year, over 31,500 students from the target countries came to Taiwan, 9.7 percent more than the previous academic year.

Thanks to the promotional efforts of the government agencies involved, the New Southbound Policy has been well-received at home and abroad, the Office of Trade Negotiations said. Many countries have welcomed the policy, and expressed a desire, through various channels, to strengthen cooperation with Taiwan. Domestically, the policy has produced positive results in many quarters, ranging from parliamentary and political party exchanges with the target countries, to innovative measures by local governments to tie the central government's New Southbound Policy to the needs of their constituents. Many universities are also promoting research on Southeast Asian studies, and offering courses in the languages of the target countries.

The five flagship projects will play to Taiwan's strengths while creating mutual benefits for all sides, the office said. Plans are also underway to initiate collaboration in fields with high potential such as public construction, tourism and cross-border e-commerce. All of these efforts will enable Taiwan to make deeper inroads into the region, seize business opportunities, and deepen ties with the countries targeted by the New Southbound Policy.

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