Why doesn’t THY fly to Taiwan?

Why doesn’t THY fly to Taiwan?

I was quite surprised when I learned from a Sicilian couple who were tourism professionals that our national carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) was flying four times a week to Catania. When the Sicilian businessperson told me that THY was planning to fly every day, I was further surprised. As a matter of fact, I never thought the passenger potential between Sicily and Turkey would ever grow this much.

When I learned that THY, which flies to 230 destinations in 105 countries, has an office in Taipei, but does not fly to Taiwan, I was equally surprised.

I heard from Taiwan’s Ambassador to Turkey Yaser Cheng personally that THY was not among the 58 airline companies flying to Taipei. During our conversation, Ambassador Cheng said, “The reason why there are no flights from Turkey to Taipei is that Ankara is quite reluctant to sign the bilateral agreement to start the flights.” When asked whether the uncertainty was stemming from China, he answered, “Probably so. We have a big brother issue.”

The world’s 18th economy Taiwan, which several countries have considered a part of the People’s Republic of China since 1971, has been able to develop strong relations with many countries in the economic field.

About a year ago, Selçuk Çolakoğlu from the think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) based in Ankara made a fact finding tour to Taiwan and wrote this: “Turkey is one of the countries that wants to develop its economic and commercial relations with Taiwan without drawing any reaction from China. However, Ankara has not been able to draw a clear framework on how and with which tools it will develop its relations with Taipei.”

Taiwan has selected Turkey as strategic country for the 2013 and 2015 period. They have organized an activity in Istanbul’s İstinye Park with 43 world-known brands including Asus, Acer and HTC, which will close today, Sept. 23.

The trade volume between Taiwan and Turkey is $2 billion; $1.6 billion is Taiwan’s exports to Turkey. That means Turkey’s exports to Taiwan is almost nothing. Ambassador Cheng said Taiwan has trade attachés both in Ankara and in Istanbul, but Turkey does not have one in Taipei.

According to Patty Yen, Taiwan Trade Center’s Turkey Director, Turkish olive oil, hazelnuts and especially red wine may become popular in Taiwan. For olive oil producers who are looking for new markets and for wine producers who are frustrated with alcohol bans, Taiwan has a potential for initiatives.

The trade volume between Taiwan and its big brother China is about $200 billion. Taiwan’s exports to China are predominant. Ambassador Cheng said there were only three countries earning from China, which were Korea, Japan and Taiwan. “We are a country that knows China very well and best knows how to trade with China. Thus even Japan, when they plan to invest in China, form partnerships with Taiwan.”

According to the ambassador, in joint ventures with the Taiwanese, the profit rate increases 10 percent.

No doubt, Ambassador Cheng’s words are a significant message for Turkish investors seeking investment opportunities in China.

But before anything else, Ankara has to draw the clear framework in bilateral relations.