Malaysia-Taiwan Economic Relations: Continued Convergence
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Malaysia-Taiwan Economic Relations: Continued Convergence


APLN member Elina Noor wrote about the impact of the Taipei’s New Southbound Policy and future collaborative opportunities between Malaysia and Taiwan beyond the tech sector.

New Opportunities for Expanded Ties

There are new collaborative opportunities beyond just the tech sector. As Taiwan looks to penetrate the global halal market—poised to approximate USD $3 trillion by 2029 by some estimates, and USD $5 trillion by others—Malaysia, with its 40-year experience in the industry, can and will be a natural partner for Taiwan to establish an international foothold. Halal refers to what is permissible or lawful by Islamic teachings.

Malaysia’s demographics (60 percent Muslim, with a large ethnic Chinese minority) makes it a unique market and entry point to the international halal market. Pre-pandemic, the country was the primary source of tourists visiting Taiwan. In 2023, Malaysians constituted the largest group of visitors from Southeast Asia in the first quarter of the year. Historically, as well, Malaysian students have dominated the total number of international students in Taiwan. In 2023, Malaysians made up the third-largest population of international students in Taiwan. Taiwanese food and beverage outlets and chains, therefore, are well-known to Malaysians and are familiar brands when they set up shop in Malaysia. They do even better when obtaining halal certification, enabling them to expand their market reach to the largest communal group of Malaysians.

The Taiwanese government has, in fact, been promoting products targeted at the Muslim market since 2017—and as of 2023, over 1,000 Taiwanese businesses had obtained halal certification. Most of them (80 percent) have had their certification recognized by Malaysia’s halal certifying body, the Department of Islamic Development. The Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA, 中華民國對外貿易發展協會) even has a dedicated Taiwan Halal Center to facilitate market entry for Taiwanese businesses.

But the Taiwanese tourism industry also recognizes the consumer potential of Malaysian and other Muslim visitors. Many Malaysian tourists are, after all, repeat visitors. In 2023, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in Kuala Lumpur launched a “Salam Taiwan” campaign, customizing vacation packages for Muslim tourists. The Taiwanese government has also begun building prayer rooms at airports, highway rest stops, and tourist spots. These efforts have already borne fruit. For the past two consecutive years, Taiwan has been ranked in the top three of the most Muslim-friendly destinations among non-Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries and territories.


When Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his coalition government were voted into office in November 2022, the Taiwanese ministry of foreign affairs issued a congratulatory message pledging to closely cooperate under the New Southbound Policy. Although Malaysia’s commitment to the “One-China Policy” meant that Putrajaya could not extend reciprocity at the official level when President Lai was elected, Malaysia’s and Taiwan’s long-standing cooperation in all other areas demonstrates a friendship that seems likely to endure, quite apart from political or even geopolitical constraints.

The full article can be accessed here.

Image: iStock/donvictorio

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