Taiwan’s Relationship with Miami and Florida

Taiwan does not have a consular office in Miami, but it maintains a diplomatic presence that is roughly equivalent – the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. The current director is Charles Chi-Yu Chou, who has been in that position since February. He spearheads the relationship between Florida and Taiwan, which is the ninth-largest trading partner with the U.S.; total trade between Taiwan and the Miami Customs District is now just shy of $1 billion. We sat with Director General Chou to discuss his vision of Taiwan’s relationship with Miami.

What is the role of your office?

We are the foreign mission of Taiwan for Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Since my office was set up here in 1988, the main mission is to promote bilateral economic and cultural ties. My office has all the functions of a Consulate General – we can issue visas and renew passports. The main job, of course, is to promote goodwill between Taiwan and Florida… Our office name is the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, so actually there are two things. [First,] we focus on promoting trade and economic cooperation with Florida, and the second thing is culture, which also covers education.

What is the Taiwanese presence here like?

There are about 80,000 Taiwanese in Florida, some in Miami but a lot in the Orlando area. There are also quite a lot of Taiwanese companies stationed here. They take [Miami] as a gateway to Latin America, to the Caribbean. Some are renowned companies, like King of Fans, which is actually one of the top three-selling fan makers in the United States. You can buy them in Home Depot, even Walmart. Then there is BioTissue, with a focus on stem cell research… [and] ADATA, which focuses on power packs [for cell phones].

How do you promote economic ties with Miami?

When we talk about trade, we need to talk about [direct] investment, which is sometimes related… Not long ago, I contacted Enterprise Florida because one of our Taiwanese companies [that manufactures EV charging stations] wanted to expand to Florida. But Taiwanese companies are facing a tax barrier. Taiwan and the U.S. don’t have an agreement to avoid double taxation, [so] Taiwanese companies need to pay 30 percent withholding taxes whereas Korea, for example, has signed an agreement where they need only pay 10 percent. We should conclude that agreement as soon as possible in order to make the economic relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. even closer.

We have direct flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago– I hope we can see our national airline fly here. But the problem is whether they have enough passengers to sustain the route. My idea is to do it like a charter first, flying from Taiwan to Orlando because Orlando is a tourism brand for little kids, and gradually make it a regular flight. And then the next step would be Miami. 

What about seaports? 

PortMiami, actually, has built up a very close relationship with Port Kaohsiung, one of the major harbors in Taiwan. So that’s one reason we are always saying that Taiwan and Florida have a very close relationship, even though we are far apart. 

What are your other challenges here? 

Education for me is a priority. Nowadays, Taiwan has 20,000 students studying in the U.S. But how many study in Florida? Only 400. So, I’m thinking that not many Taiwanese people know that Florida actually has a very good, high quality education system. A challenge for me is that I would like to do more to promote, together with a university here, the higher education system to the young students [in Taiwan].

What else would you like to say to our readers? 

I would like to express my appreciation for the longtime support from the Florida government and legislature. We highly appreciate all the moral support from our friends [here]; that is very important to Taiwan… Another thing I want to say is that a lot of people know that China does military exercises around Taiwan to make the area dangerous. But, actually, if you have the chance to go to Taiwan, you will find out that life is going on as usual. We’ve been living under this kind of threat for more than 70 years.

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