On June 1, 2022, Taiwan and the US launched the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade, which focused on trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, agriculture, anti-corruption, SMEs, digital trade, labor, the environment, standards, state-owned enterprises, and non-market policies and practices.

Taiwan must use its international and domestic crises affecting industrial development as an opportunity for maturity, to elevate industry competitiveness and strengthen the real economy. However, a large portion of the public still does not understand the Initiative’s contents or benefits.

Three policy think tanks will be collaborating in the near future in order to assist Taiwan through this process: TABF, the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER), and Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER). The three institutions have created the “Economics & Finance Courtyard,” which will act as a bridge for communication between the government and the public. Dr. Hank Huang, President of TABF, expects the platform not only to blend industry development with economic and financial topics, but also to expand participation from all walks of life. He also expects it to assist in promoting and deepening economic relations between Taiwan and the US.

Learning from CSIS

Within the Courtyard, TABF President Huang, CIER President Yeh Chun-hsien and TIER President Chang Chien-yi will give lectures, enlist local experts, fulfill their social responsibilities as economic think tanks, provide suggestions, and contribute to Taiwan’s economic development.

According to President Huang, courtyards were commonly seen in early Taiwanese society and were called “tuā hiā-tshu.” In addition to representing the three domestic think tanks, this name is also a metaphor for their perspectives. They will use a local, Taiwanese angle as their jumping off point in order to explore industry development and relevant economic and financial topics.

“We aim to establish a communication platform with a role similar to that of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS),” President Huang explained. CSIS is a nonpartisan foreign policy think tank which provides media commentary on a variety of topics.

Explaining further, President Huang said that the Courtyard will hold twelve talks in a year, with each institution being responsible for four. They will focus on building new models. As an example, TABF could start with the work published by its Financial Research Institute and select three books for discussion with the public. In the remaining three talks, they could host particular firms or invite technology professors from local universities to give lectures related to finance and economics.

In this way, when researchers release reports, university professors can come and discuss them, allowing for an exchange of ideas between academia and the industry. The Courtyard give these institutions a platform from which to announce their research, which will also attract attention from the media.

In early Taiwanese society, three-sided courtyards were common, and friends and neighbors could be seen making tea and chatting beneath the trees. President Huang explained that through their research, the three institutions will be able to deeply analyze the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade and engage with the public. “Discourse is important. We want to use clear and easy-to-understand literature and language to allow different audiences to understand the Initiative’s long-term impact on Taiwan’s economy. Therefore, the content must make an impression on people.”

Strengthening the Initiative’s discourse and transmission

TIER President Chang Chien-yi also called for the Courtyard to focus on building new business models. As the growth momentum enjoyed by China’s manufacturing base and consumer market has gradually disappeared, there has been a realignment among the world’s economies. Supply chains and markets must reorganize themselves and introduce new sources of growth.

Global markets desperately need to establish a new trade order in light of changes in the geopolitical situation. The US, as the world’s largest democratic economy, as well as Taiwan, if it can successfully negotiate with the US (despite its smaller scale), will create a new model for the future.

According to research from Geopolitical Intelligence Services (GIS), the past 30 years of economic growth has only strengthened China’s hegemonic mentality. Democratic nations must once again stand together following the gradual disappearance of old growth models and the economic impact of geopolitical tensions. “Friendshoring” may be the best post-globalization strategy for western nations, building deep relationships among trading partners.

Moreover, a high-quality economic framework, digital economy, and inclusive economy are all important themes that the WTO did not touched on, but have been picked up by the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.

TIER President Chang Chien-yi indicated that after “friendshoring” becomes a trend in international relations, Taiwan’s industrial base, market, and supply chains will all need to be restructured. The financial sector should also follow suit and seize the new opportunities. The New Southbound policy has borne a great deal of fruit over the past few years, looking at Taiwanese banks’ overseas deployment. According to TABF President Huang, the success of “New Southbound finance” has created a win-win situation for both Taiwanese businesses and the financial sector. Following TSMC’s construction of a factory in the US, its suppliers have also pivoted in turn towards investment in the US. The content of the Initiative will determine how the financial sector will be able to seize these new opportunities.

Expanding public input and participation

Beyond the financial sector, SMEs also expect US-Taiwan trade to become more convenient, thereby benefiting both nations’ exports. Additionally, the service sector, such as accountants and lawyers, may also be brought within the scope of the agreement in the future.

According to President Huang, the Courtyard will consolidate the resources of all three institutions. At first, it will focus on discourse, exploring the meaning, background, and progress of the US-Taiwan trade agreement, as well as why it is happening now. Later, it may divide the financial and service sectors for separate discussion, or collaborate with various industrial associations for different projects.

Audience targeting is important. In order to discuss topics relevant to daily life, the platform will need to be large enough to target firms, SME owners, and audiences with backgrounds in economics and finance. However, it will also need to be small enough to still engage with university students, recently graduates, and frontline finance employees. The Courtyard will select material and content appropriate to each audience.  

If the audience is made up of businesses, industry associations will make good partners for collaboration. In addition to exploring topics of interest to their members, they could also analyze and speculate about how future bilateral trade agreements may speed up customs clearance, as well as the limits and impact on exports and business opportunities. SMEs make up 98% of Taiwan’s firms, and selling goods to the US market and reducing export barriers are topics of particular interest.

If the target is a more general audience, then the platform can use everyday perspectives to help them understand the impact of future trade agreements on daily life. For example, the US and Taiwan are pushing for digital customs administration, which may simplify customs procedures, although data privacy problems remain to be resolved.

President Huang also said that the Courtyard “hopes to help the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) understand the perspective and discourse of the three major domestic think tanks on these topics. Additionally, it will provide feedback on specific ideas and points of interest to firms and general audiences to relevant government units for reference during these negotiations.”

Diverse marketing: A podcast, Facebook, and Instagram

The Courtyard plans to produce livelier content to attract the attention of a younger generation less interested in television, such as a podcasts and YouTube videos.

The concept of a podcast includes images in addition to the audio. President Huang hopes that this sort of diverse marketing will help to expand the Courtyard’s influence. Therefore, with respect to form, the YouTube and Facebook videos will make use of a more conversational style. At first, the three presidents will personally give lectures, guiding audiences through complicated topics in finance and economics. These lectures will make use of a down-to-earth and youthful style, including diagrams and additional audio. Courtyard researchers, firms, and young people may also be invited to speak. Each episode will include a script to be published by the institutions, with additional media collaboration helping to increase exposure.

Additionally, the platform will draw on the marketing experience of TABF’s magazine, the Taiwan Banker. Previously, the Taiwan Banker was principally written by researchers, and included slightly complex topics which were difficult for general audiences to understand. Following President Huang’s appointment, the target audience shifted to those working in the financial sector and readers with backgrounds in finance and economics. As for the content, every effort was made to promote ease of reading, pairing professional editors with audio & video teams, producing interesting headlines, easy to understand article formats and lively recordings.

The Taiwan Banker has seen great success. It also provides articles to influential media outlets such as Liberty Times, Commercial Times, Economic Daily News, Yahoo Finance, Anue, Eastern Broadcasting Company News, and Storm Media for reprint, allowing it expand its audience and increase its reach.

The Taiwan Banker also records short video for broadcast on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. At first, it picked the most essential elements of articles and made 5-10-minute videos, which were later reduced to 2-3-minute recordings. This allowed readers to more quickly grasp key points and sped up broadcast speed.

According to President Huang, after audiences finish a short video, they will be able to participate in a 7-11 coffee and voucher raffle by taking a screenshot or leaving a comment on the Facebook page. A previous video using this approach reached 10,000 views. Going forward, the Economics & Finance Courtyard will keep this kind of operational model in mind, encouraging young people to comment and participate. The first talk is expected this March. Be sure to keep an eye out!