KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 (Sin Chew Daily) -- Representative at Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia James Chang said Malaysia had become a very important partner for Taiwan owing to its strategic location and other historical factors, and he hoped to forge a brand new partnership with Malaysia under the island's New Southbound Policy.
During an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily, Chang said there were four major categories of cooperation under the New Southbound Policy, namely economic and trade cooperation, talent exchanges, resource sharing and regional connectivity.
There are currently about 1,700 Taiwanese businesses operating in Malaysia, encompassing a wide range of sectors such as rubber, chemicals, food manufacturing, electronics, machineries and pharmaceuticals, among others.
Citing the example of Wellcall with a manufacturing plant in Ipoh, Perak, Chang said the company had been expanding continuously during the past 20 years of presence in Malaysia, and is among Forbes' top 200 public-listed small & medium-sized companies in Asia. The company has created a lot of job opportunities in Malaysia, with a staff of more than 500.
Taiwanese companies had a cumulative investment of US$12.2 billion in Malaysia since the 1990s through September 2016, making Taiwan the fourth largest source of investments in Malaysia after Japan, US and Singapore.
Taiwan is also Malaysia's eighth largest trading partner with bilateral trade soaring to US$14.125 billion In 2016, up 1.4% from the US$13.6 billion recorded a year earlier.
Gateway to Asean
Chang said Malaysia could serve as a gateway to the enormous Asean market with a population of 620 million.
He said although Malaysia and Taiwan did not maintain a formal diplomatic relationship or sign any free trade agreement, both could create a win-win situation through stepped up business cooperation.
"The actual relationship has been very strong especially after the introduction of the New Southbound Policy that has seen a higher frequency of two-way trade visits."
Chang also hoped that there would be more direct flights between Malaysia and Taiwan.
"We hope to have more flights. It will be good to have direct flights to Langkawi and Kuching."
There were almost 250,000 Taiwanese tourists visiting Malaysia during the first 11 months last year, up 22% from a year ago, while some 430,000 Malaysians visited Taiwan in 2015.
On education, Chang said the Taiwanese government would provide more scholarships and bursaries to Malaysian students beginning this September.
He said there were currently 28,000 students from Asean countries studying in Taiwan, with Malaysians making up 52% or about 15,000.
He stressed that some 60,000 Malaysian graduates from Taiwanese universities could play a bridging role to enhance the bilateral ties through FAATUM (Federation of Alumni Associations of Taiwan Universities, Malaysia)..
Chang said he hoped both Malaysia and Taiwan could strengthen their cooperation in resource sharing, adding that Malaysia had the advantages of natural and land resources while Taiwan had the technology and expertise.