KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian entrepreneurs have been encouraged to venture into halal food and beverage or halal-related businesses in Taiwan. Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia representative James Chang Chi-ping (pix) said there are 103 restaurants and hotels that are certified by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) in Taiwan. This halal certification is renewed every two years. “Certainly we’d like to see more restaurants and hotels be certified halal. We welcome more Muslims to visit Taiwan. We’re improving. If Malaysians can go to Taiwan and open franchise stores like restaurants or any kind (of halal business), that means more halal certified (facilities) there and more Muslims can go to Taiwan,” Chang told SunBiz. He said there are 500,000 Muslims in Taiwan, mainly Indonesian workers, as well as the 100,000 local Muslims. “With half a million Muslims there, you (Malaysian Muslims) can feel comfortable in Taiwan.” Chang said as part of the New Southbound Policy (NSP), Taiwan would like to welcome more tourists from Malaysia. In Asean, he said Malaysia has the most number of tourists visiting Taiwan. Chang said it foresees the number of tourists from Malaysia visiting Taiwan to exceed 540,000 this year, compared with 474,000 last year, as the first eight months of the year witnessed a double-digit growth in Malaysian tourist arrivals in Taiwan. “Of the total tourists, one-tenth are Muslims. If (we) can attract Muslims, (there is) potential, but you also need to expand a halal-friendly (environment) to the Muslims. We encourage more restaurants and hotels to get the certification from Jakim,” Chang said. The Taiwan External Trade Development Council (Taitra) had in April this year established a Taiwan Halal Centre to help Taiwanese businesses enter halal markets in NSP countries. Meanwhile, Taiwanese investments in Malaysia are expected to exceed US$300 million (RM1.26 billion) this year, from US$110 million last year, boosted by a RM1 billion reinvestment by Hotayi Electronics (M) Sdn Bhd. There are 1,700 Taiwanese companies doing business in Malaysia. Taiwan is Malaysia’s fourth investment partner and eighth largest trading partner. Malaysia is Taiwan’s eighth largest trading partner and second largest trading partner in Asean, after Singapore. Chang is optimistic that the Malaysia-Taiwan bilateral trade will exceed US$17 billion this year, from US$14 billion last year, boosted by NSP and the collaboration with the private sector. Under the NSP, he said it will integrate government resources and the private sectors to focus on economic collaboration, talent exchange, resource sharing and regional connections to create mutually beneficial partnerships with its Southbound partners.