Taiwan’s door to the mainland slowly opens
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BANKING

Taiwan’s door to the mainland slowly opens

As relations with China improve, Taiwanese banks are eyeing opportunities on the mainland as they struggle with a saturated home market. Will cross-strait accords be the trigger for growth that Taiwan’s banks desperately need?

Surrounded by a vocal and excitable entourage in a Taipei office, Charles Lo, chief executive of China business at Chinatrust in Taiwan, is outlining the company’s aspirations for expansion across the strait to the mainland.

"In the long term, I see Greater China becoming one market," says Lo. "This would cover China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. I have always believed this."

Ambition and idealism aside, any such unified market remains some way off. Before the nations in northeastern Asia can become one (very big) happy family, traditional adversaries China and Taiwan need to get much more friendly.

It is a potentially long and difficult process but there are signs of progress. Deepening economic arrangements such as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding are squarely aimed at enhancing the cross-strait relationship. And the timing looks spot on.

Freya Beamish, north-east Asian economist at Lombard Street Research based in Hong Kong
Freya Beamish, north-east Asian economist at Lombard Street Research based in Hong Kong

"In terms of both solvency and liquidity, Taiwanese banks are relatively healthy," says Freya Beamish, north-east Asian economist at Lombard Street Research based in Hong Kong.

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