CONWAY — Daniel Liao, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston, visited the University of Central Arkansas on Wednesday, updating the campus and community on the relationship of Taiwan and the United States and Taiwan and Arkansas.
“We had a good discussion about a lot of things — educationally, culturally and economically,” UCA President Tom Courtway said.
Liao, who was the Republic of China (Taiwan’s) ambassador to Tuvalu from 2006-08, came to Houston from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, where he was also director general. He holds a doctor of business administration degree from Pacific States University and has also held Republic of China (Taiwan) governmental posts in Dominica, Belize and Los Angeles.
In his presentation at the College of Business, Liao reiterated the strong economic partnership between Taiwan and the U.S. In 2011, there was $67.2 billion in bilateral trade, up 8.6 percent from 2010.
Taiwan has an area of about 14,000 square miles, a quarter the size of Arkansas but only one-third of which is arable. Its population of 23.25 million is the second most densely populated country behind Bangladesh. Its GDP of $504.6 billion in 2011 represented the world’s 23rd-largest economy in 2011.
That year, Taiwan was the 10th-largest U.S. trading partner, 15th-largest U.S. export market and the largest per capita importer of U.S. farm products, including the largest export market for U.S. corn, soybeans, meat and wheat, respectively.
“For all 23 million of us, one-third of what we eat is imported from the United States,” Liao said.
The U.S. was the third-largest trading partner for Taiwan, third-largest export market for Taiwan and Taiwan’s largest source of foreign direct investment.
Per capita income in Taiwan was a bit more than $20,000 in U.S. dollars in 2011, up from just $196 in 1952. In comparison, Arkansas’s per capita income is about $32,000.
In 2011, Taiwan was Arkansas’s 13th-largest export market. The state exported $7.09 million in agricultural products to Taiwan. Arkansas’s exports to Taiwan reached $98 million, up 20.7 percent from 2010.
“We want to do more,” Liao said.
Two Taiwanese plastics companies are investing in Arkansas, he said.
Liao reported that since 2008, Taiwan’s relationship with mainland China has warmed after the change in government to the Nationalist Party, which seeks eventual reunification with the mainland. Prior to 2008, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party urged independence from the mainland, resulting in an antagonistic relationship.
But a number of “Chiang-Chen Talks” between the two countries have resulted in agreements in several areas, including an economic framework agreement — essentially a free trade agreement — that has proven beneficial for both sides, leading to an increase in bilateral trade of $160 billion.
However, “Everything is not yet rosy,” Liao said, citing the number of missiles China has aimed at Taiwan. “It’s not perfect, but we should try for win-win solutions.”
The new philosophy of “viable diplomacy” has led to Taiwan’s being able to provide disaster rescue and relief to various places, including $20,000 in the aftermath of the 2011 Vilonia tornado, Japan and New Zealand in 2011 and Haiti in 2010.
UCA has several students and faculty with ties to Taiwan, including Dr. Linda Hsu, associate professor of violin; Dr. Bernard Chen, assistant professor of computer science; Dr. Bi-ling Chen, assistant professor of English; and Dr. Alex Chen, professor of marketing and management.
“His visit provides the university and the community an opportunity to better understand the social and economic relationships between Taiwan and Arkansas,” said Jane Ann Williams, assistant provost and director of UCA International Engagement. “It’s really promoting a global perspective for UCA students, faculty, staff and the community at large.”