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Taiwan seeks to boost medical ties with Southeast Asia

Taiwan plans to boost medical exports and expand cooperation on health care education and technology with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as part of the government’s New Southbound Policy, Minister of Science and Technology Yang Hung-duen said in a recent interview with local newspaper Liberty Times.

“The nation boasts advanced medical technology in areas ranging from in-home care services to complex clinical surgery,” he said. “We intend to work with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to collect information on the effectiveness of Taiwan-made equipment in local hospitals so as to provide a solid basis for promoting medical exports to ASEAN countries.”

The New Southbound Policy seeks to elevate the scope and diversity of Taiwan’s export economy and minimize overreliance on any single market. In addition to Southeast Asia, it extends to six South Asian countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and encompasses inbound investment and tourism, as well as educational and cultural exchanges.

According to Yang, Taiwan’s efforts to enhance medical cooperation with Southeast Asia extend to training and research. “The ministry has been working to promote exchanges with researchers in Southeast Asian countries with the goal of establishing regular platforms for communication,” he said.

A major objective of increased collaboration is to encourage outstanding students from Southeast Asia to pursue medical studies in Taiwan. “When these doctors return home to practice, they will likely choose medical equipment from Taiwan due to their familiarity with the devices. This could prove to be an important export channel for equipment manufacturers,” he said.

Health care spending in ASEAN markets has been growing in recent years, presenting considerable commercial opportunities for firms in Taiwan’s biomedical and pharmaceutical sector.

As part of ongoing efforts to bolster exports to the region, the government-supported Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) organized a medical trade mission comprised of representatives from 17 Taiwan firms in July to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore. The group held talks with 248 local companies and signed deals worth US$8.39 million.

Claire Jan, project manager of TAITRA’s marketing development department, noted health care expenditure per capita in ASEAN stood at just US$207 in 2014, far less than the figure of US$5,075 for Japan and US$9,098 in the U.S. With spending estimated to have increased at a rate of 15.7 percent across ASEAN nations in 2014, the region possesses huge potential for growth, she added.

Paul Liu, a participant in the trade mission and general manager of APIXU Industrial Corp., a manufacturer of protective medical clothing and orthopedic devices, said improvements in Thailand’s health care environment have increased lifespans and led to a rise in the number of senior citizens in the country, which could transform the ASEAN member state into a major market for Taiwan’s high-quality, competitively priced medical products. (WF-CM)

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