Looking South Episode #34 – Overseas Internship Program

This week, Eric Gau chats with Peter Huang of the Global Trade Pioneer Project Office to talk about their successful overseas internship program.

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Eric Gau: Good morning, everyone. I’m Eric Gau, and you are listening to Looking South, ICRT’s special program looking at the government’s New Southbound Policy, and its effects on Taiwan’s people and businesses. In today’s installment, we are discussing an overseas internship program operated by the Global Trade Pioneer Project Office. To tell us about it, we are joined by the office’s Director, Peter W. J. Huang, who also serves as the secretary-general of the Importers and Exporters Association of Taipei. Mr. Huang, welcome to the show.

Peter Huang: Nice to be on the show.

Eric: Mr. Huang, to start us off, could you please tell our listeners about the overseas internship program that your organization oversees.

Peter: This program was established in 2014 by the Bureau of Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Its purpose is to provide students with internship opportunities in overseas market, so that students can have in-field experience before they even enter society. This program started with sending about 63 students to Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Brazil, and Mexico, these five countries starting in 2014. This year, 2018, we have expanded the program to 25 schools and 140 students, and to the New Southbound countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and India. I think the program is popular in schools and appreciated by the industries. During this program, we provide the ticket and living allowance for the students, and send them to emerging markets for one or two months depending on the students’ needs. On top of that, we matchmake our students with companies so that students can after graduation find job opportunities within those companies. I think for the government this is a very bold endeavor to decide to send students to emerging countries, and give students a very nice opportunity to open their mind and their vision to those emerging markets.

Eric: What kind of companies can participants, these students, expect to work with under the program? How would these experiences differ from a similar company located in Taiwan?

Peter: Most of the companies that join this program are Taiwanese enterprises that have overseas operations. We started in 2014 with 17 companies that worked with this program. After 3-4 years of this program, many companies in those 5, 7 countries, they also expect and appreciate that we can send some students to their companies because they have local operations. In Taiwan, students don’t have the chance to know more about the culture or business etiquette in those countries. If they have this opportunity to go there, they will learn a lot about the cultural differences, which is very valuable for them to learn. Those companies with overseas operations need students who know about Taiwan and know about local culture. Most of the companies have international operations. It’s different from students working in Taiwan, who only have a local touch.

Eric: How has the reception to the program been? How students liked it? How have participants described their experiences working overseas?

Peter: This program is highly appreciated by the industries, by the government, by schools, and also by the students. From our survey, around 90% of the students say that this program expanded their international vision. And about 70% of the students say that they will like to now go into international trade after they graduate. Most importantly, they are willing to go to work in these Asian countries. For these students, they have this international vision, and for the school, they this is a very effective achievement, because they can select and screen the best students to join this program, and they can send these students to the overseas internships. From the school’s point of view, it is a very nice achievement. And for companies who accept these internships, they also take this opportunity to recruit those students who accept their business cultures. I think for many participants form different points of view, they all highly appreciate this program.

Eric: Has any particular field or country been especially popular among participants? If so, why do you think that is?

Peter: Among those countries, Vietnam and Thailand are the most popular among the students. One of the reasons, is that there are many more Taiwanese companies in these two countries. We have about 300 students sent to Vietnam, and 130 sent to Thailand. Maybe the reason is we have more investment in these two countries. For the students’ point of view, most of them are in international trade or international business management.

Eric: For students who are listening, who might be interested in taking part in the program get involved, or find out more information about it?

Peter: This is quite easy, because we have set up a very informative website: www.tradepioneer.org.tw. On this website, students can find all the information. If they like to, they can also dial the telephone, 02-2581-6286. With this website and the telephone number, they can get all the information. I really appreciate all the listeners, especially the students, to join this program, because this really is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that the government supports, that the enterprises support, and the school also like to send you to these countries. So please, join our program.

Eric: Mr. Huang, before we go, do you have any last thoughts that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Peter: Yes, Taiwan, our country’s economy is grown by international trade. So I would encourage all the students to open their vision, and open their eyes. You have deep roots in Taiwan, but your vision and your mind must be global. While you are studying, please also be thinking about global issues, global cultural differences, and this will benefit your own career.

Eric: We’ve been speaking with Global Trade Pioneer Project Office Director, Mr. Peter Huang. Mr. Huang, thank you for taking the time to join us on the air today.

Peter: You are welcome.

Eric: And that’s it for today’s episode of Looking South. Join us again next week as we explore yet another facet of the New Southbound Policy. I’m Eric Gau, and thank you all for listening.

Looking South Episode #33 – Think Tank Exchanges

In this week’s installment of Looking South, Eric Gau speaks with TIER‘s Southern Taiwan Program Office Director Jason Kao to talk about exchanges between thinktanks under the New Southbound Policy.

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Eric Gau: Good morning everyone, and welcome to Looking South, here on ICRT. I’m your host, Eric Gau, and we are taking another look at the Taiwan government’s New Southbound Policy. Today, we are joined by Jason Kao, director of the Southern Taiwan Program Office under the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research. Director Kao, welcome to the show.

Jason Kao: Hi, hello everyone, I’m Jason Kao, and I’m from TIER.

Eric: Director Kao, what have think tanks such as TIER been doing to help the government carry out the New Southbound Policy?

Jason: There is one aspect that thinktanks like us, the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, does, we help the government to devise the policy and to implement the policy. As you all know, the New Southbound Policy is a very important policy for President Tsai’s regime. This is quite different from before. Under President Lee, we had a Southbound Policy, and at that time, we focused on economics only, we go there and we set up factories. But for this New Southbound Policy, it’s more people-centric. What do I mean by ‘people centric?’ It’s not only about economic cooperation, but also about cultural exchanges and academic exchanges.

Eric: What has TIER learned through these exchange programs and interaction and things like that?

Jason: We’ve learned a lot. Not only TIER, but also CIER and all the thinktanks and all the academics learned a lot because it takes time for things to happen. It takes patience and understanding for the people from Southeast Asia. What we learned is that we don’t force our own values or our own beliefs on different cultures. What I’m saying is that people exchanges are the key; you have to talk and have to sit down and understand each other in order to make things happen. It’s not only about, ‘Oh, we’re going to talk about this and it’s going to happen tomorrow,” or “We think this is good for you, so you have to do this.” It doesn’t work that way.

Eric: So you’re saying it’s not a one-way street, we do not go there and just say ‘this is how things should be done’, and they listen. No, it has to be a bilateral, two-way exchange.

Jason: Yeah, that’s a good point, it’s bilateral. Actually, it’s not just bilateral, it’s multilateral. People often ask how the New Southbound Policy is different from others. We are not trying to force you to accept our own values; we have to learn from each other and from cultural differences. I learned from my great grandparents or grandparents, about 80 or 100 years ago, Taiwan had very close ties with Southeast Asia. And were just severed during World War II or Vietnam War or other international conflicts. I think people between Taiwan and Southeast Asia are still linked together.

Eric: Going back to what we were talking about before, but sort of on a wider scale, how do such think tank exchanges that TIER and others have been doing, how do these help foster bilateral ties and understanding?

Jason: As I just said, economic cooperation is important, but not only that, cultural, environmental, and social issues are also important as well. I think the cooperation is not only at the central government level. What I’m talking about is that maybe city-level cooperation can be fostered. For example, as we made Kaohsiung the base of the New Southbound Policy, the Kaohsiung city government has made a lot of effort to reach out to cities in Southeast Asia. To be concise, actually think tanks helped to set up the linkage between city governments and city in Southeast Asian countries. I think the central government put some efforts, but majorly we got some funding and we go there and build bridges between people and city governments.

Eric: On that note, we will be talking with the Kaohsiung city government in a future episode of Looking South. Director Kao, have there been any noteworthy breakthroughs or developments that have come about through such exchanges?

Jason: Except for student exchanges and academic exchanges, I see many exchanges happening right now. For example, medical exchanges. There is an organization called Boundless Doctors. A lot of those doctors are from Taiwan, and they volunteer to go to Southeast Asian, to the underdeveloped countries, to treat the patients over there, because they don’t have the medical resources and they don’t have the infrastructure. I think this is a good thing.  And not only about medical exchanges. I heard many medical students come here to Taiwan to receive their medical training, not only doctors but also nurses. That’s one thing. Also recycling; as you know Tzu Chi has done a great job in setting up recycling stations in Southeast Asia, and they have a good model on how to recycle the PP bottles or recycle other things and turn them to a better use. That’s one thing. The third thing, the Kaohsiung city government is helping some other cities to build up a cooperation network to fight dengue fever. Kaohsiung city government has a lot of experience in doing that for dengue fever. And also infrastructure, sewage, and flooding control. They have a lot of experience, and I think it’s very good that the city level can work with each other.

Eric: We’ve been talking about how these exchanges have been benefitting other countries, but what sort of benefits do you see such exchanges bringing to Taiwan, how does it help its people here, and its economy move forward?

Jason: My expertise, I’m focusing on inbound. What I mean by inbound, for example, we do a lot of start-up pitches, start-up shows, with our counterparts in Southeast Asia. And through those, we learn about a lot of Southeast Asia young people, young talent. And we see their talent and I think we can work with them to help them to develop their own economy and also we wish that they can come to work in Taiwan or be partners with Taiwan. And that’s why in the past few months the Taiwanese government has changed the regulations so we opened up so that young talent to come work for Taiwan. Especially in the Small and Medium Enterprises Administration of the MOEA. They set up a ‘start-up visa’, that means that young people who have a start-up in Southeast Asia can apply for the start-up visa and come set up a company in Taiwan really quick. I think Taiwan has a lot to contribute and a lot to learn from Southeast Asian countries. It’s a great market, and Taiwan has to immerse ourselves in the diversified cultures in order to be part of the big family of Asians and be a part of the market.

Eric: We’ve been speaking with Director Jason Kao from TIER’s Southern Taiwan Program Office. Mr. Kao, it’s been a pleasure having you join us on the air today.

Jason: Thank you very much.

Eric: And that wraps up today’s installment of Looking South, here on ICRT. Thank you for tuning in, and we’ll be back again next week with a fresh look at the New Southbound Policy. I’m Eric Gau.