Geopolitics won’t hamper ties with India: Taiwan trade body chief

Geopolitics wont hamper ties with India Taiwan trade body chiefTAIPEI: Taiwan’s policy to engage with India has nothing to do with geopolitical considerations and will not be affected by China’s view, chief of Taiwan’s main trade promotion body said here today as he pushed for more bilateral investment and cultural exchanges.

Taiwan is a sensitive issue for China, which claims the cash-rich island as its territory and a part of “one China”.

James Huang, Chairman of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) said, “India is important to us in terms of trade and investment. We didn’t pay enough attention to India in the past.”

Asked if Taiwan’s growing affinity towards India will irk China, he said, “I can’t dictate what Beijing wants to say or how they (China) see things in this part of the world.”

India has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The de facto Indian mission in Taipei is the India-Taipei Association and the Taiwanese maintain the Taipei Economic Cultural Centre in New Delhi.

Beijing opposes any official contact between Taiwan and other countries and has warned India in the past to strictly follow the “one-China” policy.

“The process to engage with India has nothing to do with geopolitics in the region,” Huang said.

“We don’t want to get involved in any geopolitical dispute in this area. Trade, investment and cultural exchanges is our purpose,” Huang, the former foreign minister, told Indian media persons in the Taiwanese capital.

He said whatever Taiwan does; Beijing may look at it from a political perspective.

“…but I want to emphasize that our policy to engage with India has nothing to do with geopolitical considerations,” he said when asked about the “uneasy” relations China shares with India and Taiwan.

“Beijing may have negative comments about certain statements made by a Taiwanese minister in our Parliament or with our educational policy. About the content in our textbooks, Beijing will say it is political and is a move intended to separate Taiwan from China,” Huang, 59, said.

He said there was a strong desire in Taiwan to talk to the Indian government on a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries for a close economic partnership. In 2014, India had indicated its interest to enter into the FTA with Taiwan, he added.

“Some Taiwanese companies will be investing in India to manufacture things like LCD screens and personal computers,” Huang, former director of Taiwan’s new Southbound Policy, said.

The policy seeks to promote ties with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Australia and New Zealand.

Besides IT, petrochemicals and food processing are key areas in which India and Taiwan can cooperate with each other, Huang said.

“We are holding a Taiwan Expo in New Delhi for the first time next month. On April 17, a new TAITRA office will open in India’s national capital. India is a rapidly growing economy with a population of 1.3 billion people and its economic growth is even faster than China and ASEAN members. The market is worth exploring further,” Huang said.

The bilateral trade between India and Taiwan, which was around USD 5 billion in 2016, rose to USD 6.3 billion in 2017 and is expected to rise by 10 to 15 per cent this year, Huang said.

“Taiwan is ready to collaborate with India in enhancing electronic manufacturing capability,” he said.

“We are considering developing industrial parks in India as part of ‘Make in India initiative’. We are also ready to start a petrochemical park in India,” he said.

Taiwan has developed good solutions for smart cities, he said, adding “Taiwan is the best partner for India in the smart city business.”

Taiwan is looking forward to collaborate with India in electric vehicle sector, Huang said. “India is planning to phase out combustion engines by 2030 and moving to electric vehicles. We have an entire ecosystem in this business and can help India,” he added.

“The Modi government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative is a huge opportunity for Taiwanese companies,” Huang said.

On the risks of escalating protectionism and a damaging trade conflict between the US and China, Huang said, “You can’t shift the entire supply chain system from Asia to the US. It is not possible.”

China’s hostility towards Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party was elected Taiwan’s president in 2016. China fears Tsai wants to push for formal independence, though she says she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to peace. PTI