India’s potentially massive and growing market is attracting yet another Southeast Asian ‘tiger economy’ to invest in India. Taiwan, a manufacturing powerhouse, is now looking to ramp up investment in India. “India is important to us in terms of trade and investment. We didn’t pay enough attention to India in the past,” admits James Huang, Chairman of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA). It opened its first trade office in Delhi recently, after similar ones in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. This is its 61st such office globally, and with four offices, India comes next only to US, where TAITRA has five offices.
“We are holding a Taiwan Expo in New Delhi for the first time in May. 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, a former director of Taiwan’s new Southbound Policy said.
“PM Narendra Modi’s initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India, and Skill India are ones in which Taiwan can be a good partner. Our investments in China and Southeast Asia in the past three decades have helped tremendously. I believe this is the right moment for Taiwan to engage with India for the next 20 years,” Huang added. Last year, an India centre was launched in Taipei to promote awareness about India’s business ecosystem in Taiwan.
The bilateral trade between India and Taiwan, which was around $5 billion in 2016, rose to $6.3 billion in 2017 and is expected to rise by 10 to 15 per cent this year, Huang said. Besides IT, petrochemicals and food processing are key areas in which India and Taiwan can cooperate with each other, Huang pointed out. “Taiwan is ready to collaborate with India in enhancing electronic manufacturing capability,” he said.
A number of proposals are being considered. “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,” Huang said, who also pointed out that Taiwan has developed good solutions for smart cities. In November 2017, TAITRA organised an India-Taiwan Smart City Summit in Bengaluru, showcasing solutions for smart cities.
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.
India-Taiwan relations have made significant progress over the past few decades with the signing of the ‘Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement’ and the ‘Custom Mutual Assistance Agreement’ in 2011. Taiwan and India concluded a memorandum of understanding on industrial collaboration December 2017 underscoring the two sides’ commitment to strengthening trade and investment ties, by which the two countries will institutionalize cooperation in such areas as design and engineering, product manufacturing, R&D and after-sales service. Of course, due to China’s insistence on the one China policy, like most countries, India has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The India-Taipei Association in Taipei acts as the Indian mission in Taiwan while the Taiwanese maintain the Taipei Economic Cultural Centre in Delhi.
Huang 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. “Taiwan is home to the world’s leading information and communication technology, machinery, automobile parts, petrochemical and “green” energy industries, and is a leader in developing technologies for “smart” city solutions, he said. I would say it’s a perfect time for Taiwanese companies to make an India entry.”
About the Author:
Suman Tarafdar is a veteran business and travel journalist. His articles appear in Business India, The Financial Express Outlook Traveller, Business World and various other platforms