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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Advancing Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy from the Perspectives of ASEAN and SAARC


Chen-Sheng Ho


Introduction

Presently, Taiwan is developing the "new southbound policy." The policy seeks to advance relations between Taiwan and South and Southeast Asian nations. Most importantly, the new policy will not only focus on trade and investment but will also emphasize people-to-people, cultural, educational, research and other forms of exchanges. Moreover, tourism and talent cultivation are also included (MOEA 2016).

In order to strengthen the success of the "new southbound policy," it is essential to comprehend the expectations of the South and Southeast Asian nations for economic cooperation. In the case of Southeast Asian nations, ASEAN is the focus. The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 is an important source of information to comprehend the emphasis of the ASEAN members on economic issues. As for determining the needs of South Asian nations, the focus is on the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). From understanding the economic issues of importance to ASEAN and SAARC, Taiwan will have a better idea of how to cooperate with the ASEAN and SAARC members.

ASEAN

ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025


The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 has stated that it emphasizes the following priorities: (1) A Highly Integrated and Cohesive Economy; (2) A Competitive, Innovative, and Dynamic ASEAN; (3) Enhanced Connectivity and Sectoral Cooperation; (4) A Resilient, Inclusive, People-Oriented, and People-Centered ASEAN; and (5) A Global ASEAN (ASEAN 2016).

Within each of the priorities, the Blueprint has listed the main elements for advancing the priorities. This article will pay attention to some of the elements that Taiwan can possibly cooperate with ASEAN members. In the section on the priority of "A Highly Integrated and Cohesive Economy," the element of "Enhancing Participation in Global Value Chains" is stated. Specifically, the element is about advancing the participation of ASEAN members in global value chains (GVCs) (ASEAN 2016).

The second priority of the Blueprint is "A Competitive, Innovative, and Dynamic ASEAN." An important element of this priority is "Productivity- Driven Growth, Innovation, Research and Development, and Technology Commercialization." Specifically, ASEAN seeks to create an innovative ASEAN through investment in research and development as well as human capital development. Moreover, ASEAN wants to enhance the competitiveness of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through applying science and technology (S&T) tools. In addition, ASEAN is focusing on entrepreneurship and business incubator programs for commercialization (ASEAN 2016).

The Blueprint's third priority is "Enhanced Connectivity and Sectoral Cooperation." One of the elements of this priority is "Transport." In particular, ASEAN has related that transport facilitation is important. ASEAN seeks to build an integrated, efficient and competitive logistics and multimodal transportation system, so as to ensure the seamless movement of passengers by road vehicles and cargos. Furthermore, "Information and Communications Technology" is another element for enhancing this priority. ASEAN calls for bridging the digital gap and ensuring that communities and businesses can gain from adopting ICT (ASEAN 2016).

The fourth priority of the Blueprint is the building of "A Resilient, Inclusive, People-Oriented, and People-Centered ASEAN." The main element of this priority is "Strengthening the Role of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises." This element is about enhancing MSME development, as ASEAN considers MSMEs to be the backbone of the ASEAN economies. ASEAN seeks to develop a more structured MSME program to strengthen MSME competitiveness and resilience as well as to ensure MSMEs benefit from ASEAN integration. In addition, ASEAN calls for strengthening MSMEs through promoting productivity, technology and innovation as well as to build industry clusters (ASEAN 2016).

Moreover, another significant element is "Public-Private Partnership (PPP)." Particularly, ASEAN wants to advance the PPP agenda for infrastructure initiatives. This element is about the identification of partners to offer technical assistance to ASEAN members to promote an environment conducive to PPP that includes the essential policies, laws, regulations institutions and government capacity (ASEAN 2016).

The fifth priority of the Blueprint is the advancement of "A Global ASEAN." This priority calls for ASEAN to enhance its integration with the global economy through FTAs and comprehensive economic partnership agreements. ASEAN supports the negotiations to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA (AHKFTA). In addition, ASEAN seeks to strengthen economic partnerships with non-FTA Dialogue Partners through enhancing trade and investment work programs (ASEAN 2016).

SAARC

Declaration of the 18th SAARC Summit

The SAARC members consist of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. According to the Declaration of the 18th SAARC Summit (November 26~27, 2014), the Leaders of the SAARC called for the enhancement of regional integration through the advancement of cooperation in trade, investment, finance, energy, security, infrastructure, connectivity and culture (SAARC 2014). Some of the major areas for SAARC cooperation are presented in the following paragraphs.

In the area of connectivity, the Declaration stated that members wanted to achieve seamless connectivity through the building and upgrading of roads, railways, waterways infrastructure, energy grids, communications and air links. The objective was to promote the efficient cross-border flow of goods, services, capital, technology and people (SAARC 2014).

Moreover, in the area of energy, Leaders called for strengthening power generation, transmission and power trade, including hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel. Furthermore, the Declaration emphasized agriculture and food security. Leaders sought to promote investment, research and development, and technical cooperation, so as to advance food security and sustainable agriculture. In addition, the Declaration called for cooperation to address natural disasters and climate change. For SAARC, health is an important issue and the focus is on health regulatory systems, emerging diseases, and non-communicable diseases. As for education, the emphasis is on promoting vocational education and training as well as strengthening the quality of education (SAARC 2014).

With regard to tourism, SAARC Leaders highlighted the importance of making South Asia a tourist destination in a sustainable manner. As for promoting culture, Leaders called for the development of a cultural trail that linked major Buddhist historical sites. In addition, Leaders emphasized the need to facilitate the access of people to holy sites of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and all other major religions in South Asia (SAARC 2014).


Suggestions for Enhancing Cooperation with Members of ASEAN and SAARC


From understanding Taiwan's new southbound policy, ASEAN Economic Community and SAARC cooperation, it can be said that economic cooperation can occur in many areas between Taiwan and ASEAN members as well as between Taiwan and SAARC members. One suggestion is that our country's government can undertake a comprehensive study. The study will identify the economic issues of importance to members of ASEAN and SAARC. From these economic issues, the study will prioritize the areas for cooperation that Taiwan can play a significant role, on the basis of Taiwan's strengths.

The second suggestion is that our country can use APEC as a platform to enhance economic cooperation with ASEAN members of APEC. Many of the economic issues of importance to ASEAN are also significant for APEC, such as GVCs, connectivity, innovation, and MSME development. Thus our country's capacity building projects in APEC can ensure the participation of ASEAN members of APEC. Moreover, our country's APEC projects can also invite speakers from SAARC members.

(Dr. Chen-Sheng Ho is the Director of International Affairs Department, TIER)


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