Mumbai: Pitching Taiwan as a ‘natural partner’ for India, Ambassador Chung-Kwan Tien, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in India, has said that his country is eager to expand trade ties with the Asia’s third-largest economy. Tien spoke to Aprameya Rao on the sidelines of Smart Asia 2019, a ‘smart city’ solutions expo, organised by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (Taitra), with Ficci. Edited Excerpts:
Trade between the two countries has crossed $7.5 bn. Are we seeing a major upswing in trade ties?
Yes, bilateral ties between the two countries have got an impetus since 2014. I feel India became more pro-business. This gave our companies the opportunity to do more business. In fact, my Indian friends told me in 2014 that the Taiwanese should not miss the bus. We are now adding more passengers to it!
Why is India an attractive destination for Taiwanese businesses?
India is one of the largest markets. It has a booming middle class and a largely young population. More importantly, we value political stability, which is very important for companies investing in a country.
But experts argue that trade volume between India and Taiwan is still quite low.
Firstly, India is not a very familiar territory for Taiwanese businesses. We tend to have a much deeper and closer trade relationship with Asean countries. These countries also have Chinese communities which help our companies. These are missing in India so it is a new territory. However, trade volumes have increased six times since 2000. In the future, it is only going to rise.
The New Southbound Policy aims to enhance ties with countries in South-east Asia, South Asia and Australasia. Where does India stand in your policy?
As a strategically located country, India stands first in our policy. Among the various benefits, India provides our businesses with east-west connectivity. It allows our companies to explore greener pastures in the global market.
We can complement each other. Taiwan’s expertise in hardware together with India’s software industry can do a lot of good! We are natural partners, since there are no border issues or any serious imbalance in the bilateral trade. There is no maritime dispute or terror-related problem between us.
An FTA has been in the offing for some time. But there has been no major development though.
An FTA-like deal will be a milestone in our trade ties. In the long-run, it will not only improve product quality and competitiveness in both countries, but also help create a level playing field for our companies vis-à-vis Korea or Japan. But Indian government has generally been reluctant to sign FTAs. The government thinks signing them will lead to a loss in revenue. I urge them to set up a task force and think of the long-term benefits.