Based on the theme: Building a Resilient Future Together, the first session of the 2020 Yushan Forum kicked-off with former and current officials from the United States, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries. The discussion spanned economic and trade, education, agriculture, covering New Southbound projects. Participants shared their observations of opportunities for regional cooperation in the post-epidemic era.
Imperative of digital technology in a post-epidemic era
"The digitization of standard procedures is an essential feature that vocational education and training must have." Through a video call, Mr. Pham Xuan Thu, the Vice Director, National Institute of Vocational Education and Training, Ministry of Labour, Vietnam, provided insight into the new direction of post-epidemic education. Moreover, Mr. Pham said that education has been one of the most affected sectors by the pandemic. Most schools are closed and switched to online teaching, but both students and teachers are still attempting to adapt to the new environment. He believes that digitizing the traditional teaching process is one of the direct means to re-shape vocational education and training. From entrance examinations to student training, and professional training, they must all be digitized.
Taiwan is committed to cultivating industrial talents that are needed in New Southbound partner countries. Vocational education and training is one of the main ways to achieve this goal. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor have worked hard for many years to build Taiwan into a regional talent incubation base, and the number of students from NSP partners to Taiwan has also increased yearly. When students in Asia, especially in developing countries, cannot study at school due to the epidemic, Taiwan can step up and further provide comprehensive digital education, deepening its regional ties.
Not only the educational sector but similarly, many other fields have the same appeal concerning digitalization. The status quo has made the process of "digitization", which has grown rapidly in recent years urgently demanded in the post-epidemic period. Tadao Yanase, Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer, NTT, Japan, pointed out that behind the challenge of digitalization, another existing challenge is the problem of energy demand. He predicts that the explosive growth of network data will increase the demand for information and communication equipment, and the energy demand will be multiplicative. However, it should be noted that cyber-attacks will also become more frequent. Therefore, Tadao Yanase emphasized that both the government and the enterprise must face the post-epidemic era with a long-term vision.
From economy to food, time to re-examine the global supply chains
In addition to digitalization, supply chains have become another critical issue that must be tackled. A global public health crisis has taught countries all over the world that relying on a single source for critical goods is dangerous. When sharing Taiwan’s experience, Chern-Chyi Chen, the Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs, said that through the New Southbound Policy, Taiwan is studying new economic development models to reduce its dependence on a single manufacturing base. The outbreak of the epidemic has allowed companies to establish new production bases, re-layout, and shorten the distance of the supply chain by moving closer to an end market. The government has been assisting companies in reshoring their production bases or in investing in like-minded countries, adjusting production in a diversified manner, and simultaneously working hard to participate in regional integration and signing free trade agreements with partner countries. Finally, Deputy Minister Chen emphasized that only a safe and reliable cooperation mechanism can contribute to stable economic growth.
The epidemic has also forced Vietnam to recognize its challenge in food security. In response to the supply chain issue raised by Chern-Chyi Chen, Trinh Khac Quang, senior researcher from Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, pointed out that the issue of food security supply chain has also crystallized in this crisis. Quang stated that Vietnam has not yet established a comprehensive policy for food security, farmland protection, and nutrition improvement. However, as a country that can export 5 million to 7 million metric tons of rice each year, Vietnam has the ability to improve through policy revisions in order to supply the basic necessities of its people.
Through the New Southbound Policy, Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture has set up pilot farms in Indonesia and the Philippines to assist the locals in improving planting technology and production capacity. The next step is to cooperate with Vietnam: Taiwan and Vietnam have signed a cooperation agreement on seedling propagation and production demonstration centers to assist Vietnam's Long An Province to improve rice and fruit seedling propagation and cultivation techniques.
Cooperation before competition, to build a resilient future based on mutual trust
We have observed that the pandemic has introduced many pre-existing problems to the surface, and human society must address them. However, no problem can be resolved by a single nation alone. In a globalized world, an issue often involves an entire region or even the global community. Nonetheless, “we are currently witnessing fierce competition in vaccine research and development.” said Dr. Janette Loreto-Garin, the former health minister of the Philippines. She took the example of the Philippines studying Taiwan's health insurance system, health insurance cloud medical record system, and Covid-19 research, stressing the importance of transnational cooperation mechanisms. Dr. Loreto-Garin called for cooperation to enable countries to be better prepared when facing future challenges in building a resilient future.
Mr. Clete R. Willems, former Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, the White House, also believes the current global public health challenges are opportunities for countries to unite and cooperate. He praised that Taiwan has always been a trustworthy and excellent partner in medical and technology, and said that under the epidemic, Taiwan has proved that it can be an excellent partner, not only capable of solving its challenges, but also helping the United States. In conclusion, Willems pointed out that cooperation between the two nations will help Taiwan and the United States build trust in each other and move towards a more comprehensive partnership in the future.