Last month, Taiwan imposed sanctions on the Philippines over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard in disputed waters. In an email interview, Hui-Yi Katherine Tseng, a research associate at the East Asian Institute who has researched trade and conflict management in East Asia, discussed ties between Taiwan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and how the current dispute is likely to affect them.
WPR: How extensive are trade and diplomatic ties between Taiwan and ASEAN and its member states?
Hui-Yi Katherine Tseng: The logic of redressing its overreliance on economic ties with China has driven Taiwan to develop closer ties with ASEAN. In 2008, China and ASEAN became Taiwan’s two largest trading partners. Trade continues to grow; in 2012, the total amount of trade between Taiwan and ASEAN reached $88 billion, an increase of 4.4 percent of annual trade compared to 2011. Taiwan enjoys a trade surplus, and saw a 33 percent annual increase in exports to ASEAN in 2012. Among ASEAN members, Singapore and Malaysia rank as Taiwan’s sixth- and ninth-largest trade partners, respectively, while other ASEAN member countries trail behind, with Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines ranked Taiwan’s 11th- to 14th-largest trading partners, in that order.