Local foothold a vital first step for Taiwan-made goods

Monday, June 11, 2012
The China Post news staff

A soaring number of Taiwanese designers and manufacturers are now showing a key interest in Made-in-Taiwan (MIT) textile products, successfully blending innovative fashion pieces with a traditional flare.

In light of the continuous protests against U.S. beef containing ractopamine, Taiwan authorities should also consider expanding the use of the MIT label to Taiwan-made food and beverages, as well as locally grown fruit and vegetables.

Today, the smiley face MIT logo can be easily seen on textile products at department stores, convenience stores, retail shops, Taipei's MRT and even on online platforms such as PChome and Yahoo Taiwan. The friendly logo has come to stand for safety, quality and good prices.

Remember that about 30 years ago, some people avoided products made in Taiwan; the label acted as a guarantee of cheap manufacturing rather than a guarantee of quality. But now, most people look for Taiwan-made textile products because of the assurance the label offers for customers and other manufacturers.

One of the best things about the MIT certification system is that it gives companies a chance to improve their products. Those who do not pass the strict assessment process are given guidance by the government. With the assurance that the MIT logo offers, consumers are afforded with a peace of mind when purchasing MIT-certified products that come in close contact with their skin, such as undergarments and towels.

Weeding out products that do not meet local and international standards eventually helps build a good image for locally made products. It is important, however, not to confuse MIT-certified products with other Taiwan-made products — only those which pass the strict certification process are allowed to use the government's smiley face logo.

The MIT label was also launched to protect the local textile industry, which consists of clothing, undergarments, swimsuits and sweaters, in preparation for the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA, 兩岸經濟合作架構協議) that was signed in June 2010. Faced with increasing competition from foreign imports (after the signing of the agreement), the industry had to increase its competitiveness in order to survive. It is by increasing competitiveness that Taiwan can benefit from the advantages of ECFA, which allows Taiwan's textile exports to enter mainland China at a favorable tax rate starting this year. In 2013, the exports will be completely duty free.

In the meantime, the country's avant-garde designers and manufacturers have been able to showcase their products at the FUSE Fashion Textile Week as well as various other promotional events, and expand their market shares all across the island. Held with the support of the Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF, 紡拓會), the Taiwan Textile Research Institute (TTRI, 紡織產業綜合研究所), the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Industrial Development Bureau (IDB, 經濟部工業局) and the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院), FUSE combines high fashion with traditional Taiwanese culture to promote Taiwan's textile sector on the local and international stages.

As Taiwan has acquired a competitive advantage by upgrading its technology to focus on performance textiles, performance fabrics and environment-friendly textiles, the government must make sure that Taiwan stays ahead of the competition by continuing research and development in other areas, including food manufacturing and the agricultural sector.

In this respect, Taiwan-made food and beverages, as well as fruit and vegetables, have great market potential in neighboring countries given the improving relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Due to labor shortages, it is unlikely that Taiwan's food sector will continue to expand significantly; therefore, it is important for Taiwanese businesses to improve the value of their products.

Quality is of course important, but so is having unique and marketable designs. In order to successfully win the hearts of overseas consumers, “Made-in-Taiwan” products will need a firm hold on the domestic market. Without having a secure footing in the domestic market, it will be impossible to look toward overseas markets; therefore, the government must act now to help regain the public's confidence in locally made products via the same kind of MIT certification process.

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