In a glass office at Wenner-Gren Center, Stockholm, I had an interview with Dr. Chris Chao, director of the Economic Division at Taipei Mission in Sweden. I wished to find out just what kind of cooperation there currently is between Sweden and Taiwan, as well as what kind of opportunities there are for interested students such as myself.
Our talk went a little like this.
Taipei skyline taken by the author
The Economic Division Taipei Mission in Sweden
The Economic Division at Taipei Mission in Sweden belongs to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and is the youngest division in Sweden. An important part of our main mission is to raise awareness of Taiwan’s economic performance. We are responsible not only for Sweden, but also for Finland and Norway. We work on business matching, trade agreements, information exchanges and cooperation in industries.
Q: What do the economic relations between Sweden and Taiwan look like?
A: Sweden and Taiwan’s main industries and products share a supplementary relationship. Therefore, working hand in hand creates a positive synergy. There currently is a blooming development in the Electrical Vehicle (EV) industry, especially driven by global auto companies such as Volvo AB (Truck and bus) and Scania. Taiwan’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry is also very competitive in the whole world. ICT chips are integrated into auto parts and these chips give life to auto electronics, motors and engines. It means that we act as the OEM supplier for auto production, supporting the EV industrial development in Sweden.
Q: Where do you see new opportunities for Sweden-Taiwan economic cooperation?
A: A new superstar in the future is the circular economy, which falls under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). One of Taiwan’s core values, like Sweden, is GREEN, or environmental health. For example, in regards to coffee, Sweden is in the top-ten coffee consuming countries in the world. A single Swede consumes 7.8 kg per year. What can we do with the coffee ground waste in the near future? Taiwan has one solution. A textile company by the name of Singtex adds coffee grounds to yarn that is then woven to make clothes. It’s still quite a small company, but that’s why I’d say there’s room for growth in the circle economy between both nations. Another field is intellectual property (IP), meaning some form of patent, trademark or copyright. The “IP5” represents the world’s top five nations in patent applications, where China is number one and the European patent office stands as number five. If there were a number six or seven, you’d find Taiwan there. As of yet, we have signed IP cooperation MOUs with UK, France, Spain and Italy, among others but not with any Nordic countries. There will be great opportunities for IP cooperation between Sweden and Taiwan.
The New South Bound Policy
The New South Bound Policy is a strategy launched by President Tsai, with the goals of increasing international outreach, as described by Sana Hashimi in the article “Perfecting Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy”. The policy places a special focus on establishing cooperation with countries in Southern and Southeastern Asia like India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Q: Do you think there will be a time for such a policy towards Sweden or Europe?
A:The Southbound Policy was established under a mixture of a geopolitical and geoeconomic ambitions. A similar policy had already started under the former President Lee administration. I’d like to emphasize the importance of our bilateral EU and Taiwan relations. In order to increase the depth of EU – Taiwan relations, we have proposed ideas for a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA), kind of like a Free Trade Agreement. In addition to investment, this EU-Taiwan BIA would include a comprehensive approach in respect to rules for trade, market access, even services, and IP, improving the overall economic framework between EU and Taiwan. I certainly believe the EU-Taiwan BIA would be particularly vital to facilitate economic relations between Sweden and Taiwan, especially to enhance emerging industries in both nations, including green energy and circular economy.
Q: Finally, being a student myself I am curious about what you think are the most important characteristics for a person to have when looking for work?
A: Considering Taiwan is one of the leading countries in the semiconductor industry, let me introduce the characteristics a student should have as an acronym: “CHIP”
Concentration: without concentration, we could make nothing; Humanization: to be a modern young worker, we should have social responsibility; Imagination: we have to use our brains to create a brighter future; Professionalism: be as professional as we can. Then we can remove barriers of entry and become more specialized to gain more advantages.
Q: Where would you suggest a student to look for work opportunities in Taiwan?
A: To find work opportunities, I would suggest going to this website; www.contacttaiwan.tw Contact Taiwan is a ‘find-a-job’ website officially supported by Ministry of Economic Affairs, to match global talents and Taiwanese companies. That is all free of charge. Up to now, there are more than 1800 Taiwan leading businesses offering a variety of job offers abroad and home. As for international intelligent, we have more than 18000 members. Once joining this membership through this website in a minute, you will be informed of several work offers overseas and home. Although not just for work opportunities, I would also like to recommend Taiwan International Tradeshows, which is an online platform for exhibitions: www.taiwantradeshows.com.tw After surfing those international events in this website, it can bring you more innovative ideas and grow your business in the near future.
Q: What’s your favorite Swedish activity?
A: Due to the pandemic, there unfortunately haven’t been many opportunities for leisure activities, but I have enjoyed shopping.
Thank you, Chris Chao, for taking time for this interview.
Sarah is a master student in the Asian Studies program at Lund University, currently based in Seoul, South Korea. Her main areas of interest are the culture, and history of the Korean Peninsula, as well as the international relations and security situation of Taiwan.