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2014 Europe Day Dinner

On 15 May, the ECCT's annual Europe Day Dinner was held to celebrate the first steps taken towards founding what has evolved into the European Union. The event was attended by over 600 distinguished guests including President Ma Ying-jeou, Frederic Laplanche, Head of the European Union's (EU) European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taiwan, senior government officials and executives from European and Taiwanese companies. The theme of this year's dinner was "Enhancing Europe-Taiwan Partnership and Prosperity". At the dinner speeches were given by President Ma, the EETO Head and ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo.

In his speech at the dinner ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo began by expressing the chamber's support of the government's actions to normalize cross-Strait business relations and enhance cross-Strait trade and investment through formal negotiations,  saying that trade agreements with Taiwan's trading partners are important to eliminate trade barriers and maintain Taiwan's competitiveness. "Because Europe is the world's largest economy, we continue to urge both the EU and Taiwan authorities to sign a Trade Enhancement Measures agreement or similar measures such as a bilateral investment agreement. Such measures would strengthen trade and investment ties, remove trade barriers, boost GDP and create jobs in Europe and Taiwan," he said. Izzo also expressed support for the government's ongoing efforts to further liberalise the trade and investment environment with projects such as free economic pilot zones in Taiwan.

The chairman went on to say that, while the chamber supports the pursuit of free trade agreements with all of Taiwan's partners, the ECCT is very much aware of Taiwan's internal political and social tensions. "We recognize that change causes anxiety and people are worried about the future. We live in a world where the entire supply chain is globalized and competition for business and jobs is fierce," he said. Pointing out that this problem is not unique to Taiwan or Asia, he said that to address this problem, government and the private sector need to work together to provide decent jobs and hope for the future. Citing the ECCT's already excellent relations with the government, the chairman called for taking this relationship to the next level. "We need to find the best ways to marry regulatory oversight and efficiency with innovation and business know-how," he said. He then went on to outline his views on the best way of doing this. The first requirement, he said, is a smart and efficient regulatory system that protects the health and safety of consumers while creating a level playing field for the best business models and the most innovative companies, products and services to thrive.

The chairman noted that while Taiwan has taken gradual steps towards internationalization, there remain instances of unique regulations or practices that are out of step with international standards. In this regard, the ECCT aims to help the government through the "European Business and Regulatory Cooperation" (EBRC) programme, a project funded and managed by the European Commission and implemented by the ECCT. Over the next four years, the ECCT will work closely with the European Commission, the European Economic and Trade Office and the Taiwan government to hold a series of forums and workshops covering regulations governing multiple industries. The chairman noted that a two-day forum to discuss regulations governing high voltage electrical equipment has already been held which brought together industry experts from the International Electrotechnical Commission (the IEC) and senior government officials from Taiwan, the European Commission, The Netherlands and Germany. By inviting experts from international standards-setting bodies and government, the programme's ultimate aim is to bridge regulatory differences and help Taiwan to harmonise its regulatory system with international standards and practices governing multiple industries.

The chairman went on to call for partnership to address climate change. Noting that the ECCT's Low Carbon Initiative has been involved as the host, co-host or supporter of many conferences, trade fairs, seminars and workshops to promote low carbon solutions over the past year. The chairman said that these were aimed at sharing the experiences of European countries and companies and show-case the best European examples of sustainable, low carbon solutions for a wide range of industries but now it is time to move on to the implementation stage. He urged starting by working together on pilot projects for green buildings, factories, electric mobility, smart grids and renewable energy. "Just by implementing the technologies already available in Taiwan's manufacturing sector and buildings, Taiwan could easily meet its modest emission reduction goals. By partnering with European firms and governments, Taiwan could set and achieve much more ambitious goals. Taiwan could take the environmental challenges facing us and turn them into new business opportunities by providing the right incentives and investment environment. We want to help Taiwan to become a green model for countries around the world," he said.

The chairman concluded his speech by calling for combining Taiwanese and European ingenuity and tenacity and partnership to create a truly international regulatory environment, partnership in public and private business projects that will create jobs and partnership in research and development on the technologies and business opportunities of the future. "Through partnership we can help to build a better world and a better future for our people," he concluded.

In his speech at the dinner, EETO Head Frédéric Laplanche described the ECCT as "the right place to meet, to exchange experience, to discuss common problems, and to find solutions". He noted that government agencies in Taiwan and Europe consider the positions and requests expressed by the ECCT's "well-organised committees as highly important". Laplanche also paid homage to President Ma saying that the EU appreciates and strongly supports the peace, stability and spirit of cooperation that his administration has established in the relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and the improvement of relations with neighbouring countries, which also contributes very positively to regional security and stability.

The EETO head said that current EU-Taiwan relations are very good. Taiwan was the EU's 21st largest trading partner worldwide in 2013. Taiwan's exports to the EU have risen by an average of 5% over the past five years and the EU's exports to Taiwan grew by more than 10% annually over the same period. He also mentioned the EBRC programme, which he said will promote more understanding on specific topics between the business sectors and government agencies of both sides. On the issue of trade deals, Laplanche said that "it is clear for us that a bilateral investment agreement is worth exploring in due course". He concluded by calling for more industrial cooperation between the EU and Taiwan and more Taiwanese investment in Europe.

In his speech President Ma Ying-jeou praised the ECCT for what he described as its indispensable role in promoting business development in Taiwan, promoting a free trade agreement with the EU and its support of efforts to further liberalise the trade and investment environment with projects such as free economic pilot zones in Taiwan. The president called for closer partnership with the EU through a bilateral investment agreement. President Ma quoted the ECCT's 2012 follow-up to its original 2008 study on the potential impact of a free trade deal (which the ECCT calls Trade Enhancement Measures or TEM) between the EU and Taiwan, which stated that the potential benefits of a free trade agreement for both Taiwan and EU are much better now than in 2008, when the benefits were first assessed. President Ma cited recent trade statistics between Taiwan and New Zealand as reasons for his confidence in supporting this claim. In the wake of Taiwan's ratification of a free trade deal with New Zealand in 2013, the president said that Taiwan's exports to New Zealand had risen by 35% year on year in the first four months of 2014 while New Zealand's exports to Taiwan had risen by 33% in the same period. This, he said proved the enormous potential trade boost provided by free trade deals, which is why Taiwan, together with the ECCT, continues to support an EU-Taiwan trade deal.

The Europe Day dinner was also an opportunity to enjoy some superb entertainment and cuisine. Guests were treated to fine western cuisine and wine and a string quartet of professional orchestra musicians performed three melodies after dinner. The dinner also served as a fund-raising event for charity. During the evening, ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo handed over a donation to the Syin-Lu foundation, represented by Syin-Lu CEO Zong Jing-yi. A portion of the proceeds from the dinner have been donated to the foundation every year for the past 14 years.

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