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Taiwan needs attention

TAIWAN warrants much more attention than Australia is currently giving it says Taipei-based Australian Commerce and Industry Office representative Sam Gerovich.

Mr Gerovich told a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade breakfast in Perth that Australia did not understand Taiwan well.

“Whatever Taiwan may be in international law, it is still a significant economy,” he said.

As Australia’s understanding of the island nation is lacking, Taiwanese knowledge of Australia is also superficial.

“I have the impression Taiwan has been overlooked and misunderstood,” Mr Gerovich said.

“I despair at the opportunities that go begging because of the One China policy. That is a foreign policy matter – not a business one.”

Despite the political tensions, Taiwan and China enjoy a strong trading relationship.

Mr Gerovich said there were four main reasons Australia was not proving successful in Taiwan.

“Firstly the people-to-people mix is not established,” he said.

“Secondly, Taiwan is only featured in the Australian media very infrequently.

“Thirdly, Taiwan still lives in the shadow of the People’s Republic of China. I suspect the confusion over Taiwan’s status makes it misunderstood as a manufacturer and an island.

“Finally, Taiwan is changing so rapidly, it is hard to keep track.

“Taiwan’s economy is more diverse, technologically advanced and important than Australia realises.

“It is the ninth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP. It has low inflation, low unemployment.

“China is now one of its biggest export markets.

“Furthermore, Taiwan’s role in the global information technology market showed when the country was hit by an earthquake. It is the world’s third largest computer manufacturer.”

Mr Gerovich said the Taiwanese economy proved its resilience after the Asian financial meltdown.

“The stock market has made a strong comeback after the crisis.

“Taiwan is also developing a significant breadth and depth in its trading relations.

“It is expecting ascension into the World Trade Organisation this year and that should make tariffs fall.

“Since 1993, Taiwan has outranked China for every year bar one as a market for Australian exports. It is Australia’s sixth largest market.

“Taiwan is a maturing economy and highly competitive place to do business. It has a well-developed financial and legal structure.

“It can also be a difficult market. Ansett and the National Australia Bank decided to give it away and concentrate on other markets but there have been success stories there, too – Village Roadshow for one.”

Mr Gerovich said that building, construction and infrastructure loomed as major opportunities for WA businesses.

Perth-based architect Sharni Howe was one of two Australians chosen to take part in a design forum for Taipei.

Ms Howe said Taipei was one of the most densely populated centres in the world.

The redevelopment project for the city has drawn support from all tiers of Taiwanese government and funds of $1 billion over five years have been allocated.

Ms Howe said there were a lot of similarities between Perth and Taipei.

For one, both cities are bounded by rivers.

Mr Gerovich said international air travel to Taiwan offered another opportunity, particularly in the supply of airport equipment.

Environmental technology management is yet another opportunity.

The sheer population density of Taiwan makes environmental planning a major concern – one from which Australia can profit.

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