Taiwan's true asset is its people, says Saudi ambassador

By Trista di Genova
Originally published in The China Post as part of the “Know Your Trade Rep” series

Mr. Talal Abdulsalam began working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1983, and studied at the Institute of Diplomatic Office for two years, graduating with a diploma qualifying him to serve his country in eight countries, among them four Asian countries — Korea, Philippine, Japan and Taiwan.

Talal assumed his post as Representative of the Saudi Arabia Economic office in Taipei in April 2006.

On his first impressions of Taiwan, he says, “Taiwan is a beautiful country, full of scenery and landmarks, but the real asset of Taiwan is its people, who manage to combine warmth, politeness and hard work.” As a hobby, he takes advantage of the fact “Taiwan has a lot of mountains, and where I live in Beitou I enjoy hiking in my free time.”

He admits “unfortunately my Chinese is poor,” but has been trying hard to improve it.

As for gifts he likes to bring for his Taiwanese friends here, he says, “Dates is our traditional fruit, and from time to time when I exchange gifts with my Taiwanese friends, I offer them dates.”

“Taiwanese products have an excellent reputation” in Saudi Arabia, he noted, and says “I often bring home to my friends tea, and Taiwanese pastries.”

As for projects the Saudi trade office is currently undertaking, he remarks, “Saudi Arabia is listed as one of the top ten trade partners to Taiwan, with bilateral trade exceeding US$11 billion in 2007. Currently, our office is involved in promoting investment in Saudi Arabia, and particularly in the development of six economic cities launched recently in Saudi.”

Every year, his office celebrates Saudi Arabia National day on the 23 of September, inviting about 500 Taiwanese official and public figures. “And yearly, our office twice invites students of the Arabic section at National Chengchi university for a reception to exchange views, and learn more about Arabic and Chinese cultures,” he points out. “We had some Taiwanese students studying Arabic in Saudi Arabia, and currently we are working on providing scholarships to students of Arabic at National Chengchi University.”

The hottest products between the two nations are, of course, Saudi oil and petrochemicals are the main exports to Taiwan, he explained, while Taiwan’s main products to Saudi Arabia are iron and steel, machinery and mineral fuels.

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