Taipei/Muscat: He is a one-man army but this has not stopped the only Omani official based in Taiwan from making impressive achievements in promoting the Sultanate among the 23 million strong population.
Since taking the helm as director of the Commercial Office of the Sultanate of Oman in Taiwan, Sulaiman Bin Sultan Al Mughairy, has not only focused on boosting trade ties between the two countries, but also put his heart and soul into promoting Oman’s tourism.
The office he is running has been awarded by the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China as one of the best five foreign representative offices in Taiwan.
But this is not the only honour that he has brought to his country.
In 1991, when Oman’s commercial office in Taiwan, which is a branch of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), was established, the volume of annual bilateral trade was less than $100 million but has now reached $4 billion.
“I came to Taiwan for the first time in 1995 and stayed here for seven months as a representative of the OCCI. Then I went to Oman and came back in 1996 and since then, I have stayed here,” says Al Mughairy, who is the founder of Majan College in Oman.
Speaking to the Times of Oman, the official said that the office has made every effort to reach out to a wide swath of people in Taiwan by distributing material, both in English and Mandarin Chinese.
The commercial office’s website, which is both in Chinese and English, has almost 42,000 visitors a year.
Al Mughairy believes that there is a huge potential for Oman to invest in the fast-developing East Asian country, which he now calls his ‘second home’.
“Taiwanese are very advanced in many areas. They are manufacturing around 300,000 items themselves, ranging from simple things to airplane parts,” he said.
Al Mughairy said that the main mission of his office is to promote Oman in Taiwan but he has not limited himself to this and has taken a step further by encouraging the Omani side to explore the Taiwanese market and participate in various exhibitions held in Taiwan.
However, he thinks there is a long way ahead and much more needs to be done.
“Unfortunately, Omani businessmen are nowadays more focused on the neighbouring countries’ markets and we do not see many Omanis venturing into Taiwan’s market while there are many opportunities for cooperation.”
Eighty exhibitions are held in Taiwan every year in various fields and Omani companies can promote their products and services and establish partnerships by participating in these events, he said. “Omani businessmen should be encouraged more to utilise the untapped potential.”
According to Al Mughairy, Taiwan has invested in several areas in Oman but Omani companies are yet to take advantage of investment opportunities in Taiwan.
It is easier to transfer technology from Taiwan than from European countries, he noted, urging the Omani side to allocate more funds for this purpose.
“It can also hold exhibitions here in Taiwan,” he added.
He explained that the commercial office participates in different exhibits but sometimes budget issues prevent it from having a presence in such events.
Al Mughairy says that Taiwan’s experience in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector is ‘unique’ and Oman can benefit from it now that it is focusing on the development of these businesses.
“SMEs account for 70 to 80 per cent of the companies in Taiwan and the country’s regulations regarding these units are exemplary. The incubation centres here are excellent,” he added.
While welcoming the OCCI’s initiative to send SME delegations to Taiwan and other countries for the purpose of learning from the international experience, Al Mughairy hopes to see delegations with ‘more specific’ and ‘more focused’ missions in the future.
“I think the chamber should collaborate more closely with the SME department at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in putting together such trade delegations by selecting young entrepreneurs from different regions of Oman.”
This would enable Omani start-ups to forge partnership with their counterparts in Taiwan and negotiate various issues, including the shipping price of their products, he noted.
‘Taiwan keen to invest in Oman’s petrochem sector’
“In this case, it will be easier for the coordinators such as our office here in Taiwan to organise more fruitful meetings.”
Taiwanese are also very keen to invest in the petrochemical and solar energy sectors in Oman, he added. “They are highly advanced in solar energy.”
Imports and exports
Commenting on the annual trade between the two countries, he said that oil and oil products account for a significant portion of Oman’s exports to Taiwan while machinery tops the list of Taiwan’s exports to the Sultanate.
According to the statistics provided by the Taiwanese authorities, the total value of Taiwan’s exports to Oman was $175 million in 2013 while its imports from Oman amounted to $3.5 billion during the same period.
Additionally, Taiwan’s imports from Oman stood at 79 million by May 2014, while the value of Oman’s exports to the country was $1.2 billion during the same period.
Al Mughairy’s office may be called the ‘commercial’ office, but it does not mean that his efforts are limited to strengthening business ties; he did not omit to pay heed to tourism, a major economic driver.
As part of its tourism promotion efforts, the commercial office has joined the Association of National Tourism Office Representatives (ANTOR) in Taiwan, which provides a forum for its members to meet and exchange ideas and to forge close relationships with all other sectors of the travel industry. Al Mughairy served as secretary general of the association from 2000 to 2010 and was elected to the same position for a two-year term in 2012.
According to the official, visa is issued on arrival for Taiwanese and the Sultanate is seeking the same treatment for Omani visitors. “Currently, the processing time for a visa application for Omanis is around two working days.”
Taiwan is a very beautiful country with friendly people but unfortunately, many Omanis do not know much about it and not many Omani tourists visit Taiwan, Al Mughairy lamented.
It has ‘fantastic’ infrastructure and its public transport system is very advanced, he said. “Halal food is also available here.”
Al Mughairy suggested that Oman’s Ministry of Tourism should participate in exhibitions in Taiwan and foster cooperation with the Taiwanese authorities as they are also keen to explore tourism opportunities in the Sultanate.
He says that apart from being an ideal holiday destination, Taiwan can be a good medical destination for Omani patients, given the fact that it has very modern facilities with professional staff.
Originally published on http://www.timesofoman.com