Building Ties With Taiwan
THROUGHOUT THE LAST half of 1989, the world gasped at one miraculous European development after another. In the streets of eastern bloc capitals, human aspirations for political and economic freedom finally began to overcome the crumbling confines of totalitarian rule.
A world away, and directly linked to Alaska's economic future, similar and equally important developments have been occurring in Taiwan for the last two years. This island nation, no bigger than tiny Netherlands but packed with 20 million people, has performed some economic miracles of its own.
Taiwan is a country in social ferment, awash in cash (an estimated $76 billion in cash reserves), with a voracious appetite for natural resources. Increasingly, Alaskan businesses are trying to satisfy that appetite with shipments of oil, coal, fish and timber, making Taiwan Alaska's third largest trading partner after Japan and Korea.
In 1988, the Alaska-Taiwan relationship was recognized as coming of age with a significant sister-state agreement. In 1989, Alaska opened its first Taiwanese trade office. Located in Taipei, the trade assistance and promotion office is headed by Li Chen, a Chinese-born trade specialist who has been doing business in Alaska.
According to Bob Poe, director of the Governor's Office of International Trade, phenomenal growth in Taiwan trade, fueled for the last three years by the sale of Cook Inlet royalty oil and Native-owned timber, is likely to continue.
Former Gov. Bill Sheffield, now a consultant for Arctic Slope Regional Corp., is involved in trying to sell Western Arctic coal to the Taiwanese. He was instrumental in formation of the Alaska Taiwan Business Association more than a year ago. The organization of more than 30 members works to promote trade and cultural contracts between residents of Alaska and Taiwan.
Sheffield says, "We've had lots of Taiwanese people come through here. It's our hope that we can take a delegation to Taiwan and encourage them to start their own association. ... There are lots of little things going on between the two countries we don't know much about."
In 1988, Alaska sold almost $100 million in products to Taiwan. Between 1986 and 1988, sales of fish products increased from $330,000 to nearly $6 million. By the end of the third quarter of 1989, fish product exports to Taiwan hit $9.4 million.
Alaska's timber sales to Taiwan grew from $10 million in 1986 to a whopping $41.7 million in 1988 and...