Improve trade between Atlanta, Taiwan

Taiwan and Georgia have a history of friendly, mutually beneficial relations. Atlanta and Taipei have enjoyed a 30-year sister-city relationship.

Business exchanges between our two cities include investment, trade and Taiwanese companies with headquarters in Atlanta. Last year, trade between Taiwan and Georgia came to $1.7 billion; Georgia exports to Taiwan increased 5 percent.

I take great interest in Atlanta’s economic and cultural landscape, and would like to put forth some observations and suggestions regarding its position as a global city.

Atlanta is a major transportation hub with the world’s busiest airport. Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport has a history of cooperation with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Taiwan’s China Airlines and EVA Airlines operate cargo flights weekly from Atlanta. China Airlines and Delta have a code-share agreement; Delta’s planes in Taiwan are maintained by EVA’s maintenance crew.

As part of the “Taoyuan Aerotropolis” plan, Taoyuan will greatly improve and expand. Atlanta-area airport officials might benefit from an exchange of ideas with Taoyuan planners.

Atlanta also benefits from proximity to the Port of Savannah, the nation’s fourth-busiest container port. The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is set to deepen the port to enhance its ability to serve larger vessels. Taiwanese shipping companies Evergreen America Corp. and Yang Ming (America) Corp. account for one-tenth of the Savannah harbor’s trade volume.

Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Harbor, Taiwan’s largest and 13th in the world, is another port with expansion plans. Personnel from the two ports could help each other by sharing engineering plans, innovations, problems and solutions.

Although Atlanta is a major railroad hub, it is also known for heavy car traffic and long commutes. MARTA does not have extensive routes to the suburbs. Taipei has a highly efficient rapid transit system that, in 2013, carried an average of 1.78 million travelers daily, and serves outlying towns. Taipei has 11 in its transportation network and is expanding. Perhaps Atlanta could learn from Taipei’s example in pursuit of expanding MARTA services.

The vibrant trade between the U.S. and Taiwan, and Atlanta and Taipei, can be improved by Taiwan’s inclusion in various free trade agreements.

Kin Moy, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, has said the United States welcomes Taiwan’s interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Membership would enhance Taiwan’s contributions to global economics and benefit trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement has been Taiwan’s main channel for strengthening trade and investment links between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Twelve American states have trade offices in Taiwan. I encourage Georgia to open a state trade office in Taiwan. My government would be honored to host delegations from the administrations of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Gov. Nathan Deal. Such trips would provide an excellent opportunity to discuss further investment and trade between our cities, Georgia and Taiwan.

Huei-Yuan Steven Tai is director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta.