The Taiwanese envoy, Andy Yih-Ping Liu, doubles as the Representative of Taipei Trade Office in Nigeria. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he speaks about his country’s relationship with Nigeria, its comparative trade advantage and desire to ensure Nigeria holds a peaceful election in 2023
How would you describe the relationship between Taiwan and Nigeria?
This year marks the 31st anniversary of our trade mission which started in Nigeria in 1991. The Taiwanese government was approached by former Nigeria’s Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida in the 1990s inviting us to set up a mission in Nigeria.
Although Nigeria and Taiwan had no diplomatic relations, at that time, the Nigerian government was practical and Taiwan was practical in setting up trade missions in both Lagos and in Taipei, our capital, so that trade and business relations could grow between Nigeria and Taiwan without the formal ties . For the last 31 years, the trade relations have grown so well.
What is the volume of trade between the two countries?
Last year, 2021 marked the first $1 billion trade volume between Nigeria and Taiwan. Even in the COVID period, last year, the trade volume jumped by 200 per cent. The trade volume indicates how much we need each other. We import quite a lot of Nigeria’s agricultural products, sesame and groundnut because we have a strong demand for good quality of agricultural products as raw material for our kind of food industry.
At the same time, we export so much of our technology, either information technology products to Nigeria or petrochemical products. We have no oil but we import crude and we turn it into petrochemicals in our refinery.
Another export which started in the 1980-90s was car and motorcycle parts. Nigerians assembled our parts into a real product. Currently we export them but we have one major export which is car tyre. We have a very strong name called Maxxis. It is Taiwanese car Tyre company in Nigeria.
Could you give us more details on the balance of trade?
Nigeria has a trade surplus of the total volume of trade. We import more Nigerian products and that means we need to work hard to promote Taiwanese products in Nigeria.
Which country is your biggest trading partner globally?
Our biggest trading partner is China. China and Taiwan speak the same Mandarin Chinese language; we eat the same food, though different mentality but we do business. Though military standoffs are not confrontation, they know that they cannot invade us and we know that we cannot do anything to them.
Then, how do you think Nigeria and Taiwan can deepen the relationship so that the volume of trade will increase?
There are two major things both Nigerian and Taiwanese governments are working on now. First one is to have a renewal of the mutual investment protection agreement.
That agreement was signed in 1994. The Nigerian government approached us for the renewal. Your government works so hard as it has concluded that renewal with Singapore and others.
In Asia, the Nigerian government has also approached South Korea for renewal of the mutual protection investment because investment will drive more job opportunities into Nigeria.
It will also have an agreement with Taiwanese Import Export Bank to provide $5 million of trading guarantee loans for any Nigerian or Taiwanese traders for mutual trading. Our embassy needs to facilitate the channel of doing good business.
NACCIMA which is an umbrella trading agency in Nigeria is now working with us to have an upgrade and renewal of the MoU. We have also made connections with other chambers of commerce and industry so that members of such trading associations in Taiwan can benefit from recommended traders under NACCIMA or chambers of commerce in Nigeria to avoid trade fraud.
In terms of human capital exchange, do you see opportunities for both countries?
We have had a lot of training programmes for Nigerian experts in various professional backgrounds like doctors, nurses and information technology experts to travel to Taiwan in the last 15 years. Those who have been trained in Taiwan had formed Taiwan alumni and that has become a bridge towards having more Nigerian professionals in different backgrounds travel to Taiwan either for agriculture, industrialisation, medical and any other training. Taiwan can equally come to Nigeria as your country is a big country.
We want to understand more things about Nigeria, especially its democracy and human rights commission. As at now there is no government discussion on it but we have made individual invitations and to ministries.
Considering the cold relationship between Taiwan and China, are you thinking of re-directing your business activity, especially given your area of core interest which is production of semiconductors?
In the last one year, quite a lot of Taiwanese investment in China has moved their factory to South-East Asia, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia because of the labour cost and due to the lock down in China over COVID which has hampered business activity in China. Most of our investments and trading agencies moved out of China to South East Asia. At the same time, the U.S. and Japan are strengthening their trading relationship with Taiwan.
From August 1, 2022, Taiwan and the U.S. launched the negotiation of a framework for trading for 21 century. The U.S. knows that Taiwan is the most trustworthy strategic partner for providing high technology products.
Seventy per cent of their safety and national security related activity – military, intelligence and satellite – is dependent on Taiwan micro-chip. We are against any bullying and the U.S. wants to help us protect ourselves.
Yes, we are a global leader in the area of production of semi-conductor used in the production of artificial intelligence and we enjoy healthy business relations with a number of countries in this regard because of the usefulness of the items in the production of military and security equipment.
We are guiding this technology despite rival efforts, including from China that has set up its Vision 2035 Development Strategy. Our nation takes pride in her precision health industry, national defence and strategic industries, our information and digital industries, cyber-security, green and renewable energy industry
In 2021, we enjoyed an estimated 5.8 per cent GDP growth according to statistics from the Directorate of Budget, Accounting and Budget, an indication that our economy is doing well. Thanks to the farsighted policymaking like the Six Core Strategic Industries plan for transforming Taiwan into a critical force in the global economy, building on the government’s 5+2 Industrial Innovation Programme, a vision set out to develop the industries of the future and realize the U. N. Sustainable Development Goals.
China is still our number one trading market. Do you see the Chinese interference as a mission to achieve one big country in that region?
They have been dreaming that for 70 years, they established their own government in Beijing in 1949 and from that year, China and Taiwan have gone separate ways. We have our own jurisdiction and they have their own jurisdictions of the whole big China.
But none of us will interfere with each other because we went separate ways, just like North and South of Korea still in one Korea nation but with different governments. We went separate ways after a civil war and now we have transformed ourselves into full-fledged democracy while China is still under totalitarian communist government.
Nigeria is now in transition to a new government in May 2023, how does Taiwan view the whole journey?
Nigeria, just like Taiwanese , was colonized by the Japanese Empire and went through a civil war and we have moved into full-fledged democracy by ourselves.
Nigeria has the strong spirit to move the country forward. Both Nigeria and Taiwan don’t have colonial masters any more. We are now the master of our own fate.
We look forward to a hitch-free election in 2023 in Nigeria. What we hope for Nigeria is to continuously have our trade mission in Nigeria and take Taiwan as an equal partner in trading under the WTO and at the same time we can have more exchange in education, culture and other areas. Next year we will have Taiwanese film festival in Lagos so that Nigerians can appreciate Taiwan culture.
Taiwan has the lowest fatalities during COVID-19, having only seven deaths. How did your nations manage it?
Our achievement in that area has been admired by various countries in the world. Put simply, we were able to score that feat because we meticulously observed the basic guidelines and protocols provided by the World Health Organisations, such as face mask wearing, social distancing and use of sanitisers and our people complied with that religiously. We equally ensured strict compliance by our citizens and all residents.
Hospitality is one of the major businesses of Taiwan. But the figures decreased by 88 per cent in 2020. What accounted for this and how do you intend to regain your position?
In 2019, we had a total of 18 million tourists in Taiwan and this had a tremendous influence on our economy. However, the figure fell in 2020, due to the COVID-19 travel restriction. However, we are working on improving this with the pandemic out of the way, and already millions of businessmen and other tourists and pouring into Taiwan once again.