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ECCT calls for greater cooperation with government at Europe Day Dinner

The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT) today called for greater cooperation between the chamber and the government, drawing on their respective strengths to boost the economy and overall prosperity. The call was made by ECCT Chairman Bernd Barkey during his speech at the ECCT's annual Europe Day Dinner held today with the theme "Striving Together for a Better Taiwan". The annual dinner celebrates Europe Day, the anniversary of the Schumann Declaration in 1950, which paved the way for the creation of what has evolved into today's European Union. The dinner was attended by over 700 distinguished guests including President Tsai Ying-wen, Madeleine Majorenko, 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. At the dinner speeches were given by President Tsai, the EETO Head and ECCT Chairman Bernd Barkey.

In his speech at the dinner ECCT Chairman Bernd Barkey highlighted the fact that the 66 years since the Schumann declaration had been the most peaceful and prosperous in European history, which he said shows that great things can be achieved by working together.

The chairman went on to say that the success of the European project, from the perspective of business, is mirrored in that of the ECCT, which is even more inclusive than just the European Union with many members from Switzerland, Turkey and other countries. He noted that what is unique about the ECCT is that its members embody the best of Europe and Taiwan. He pointed out that European companies are registered as legal entities in Taiwan and pay the same taxes as Taiwanese companies. They have created thousands of highly skilled and high-paying jobs. 99% of employees are Taiwanese nationals, who spend their salaries in Taiwan. When European companies invest in Taiwan, contracts are given to locally-based operators while training and R&D spending helps to boost skills and raise standards. "Our Europe side brings openness, innovation, the highest ethical and corporate governance standards and style. On the other hand, our Taiwanese side brings dynamism, entrepreneurship, diligence, efficiency and exceptional problem-solving skills. What you get from the ECCT is the true voice and spirit of Europe with Taiwanese characteristics. This is an unbeatable combination to succeed in a fiercely competitive global economy," he said.

Chairman Barkey went on to elaborate that what this means in practice is that ECCT members are committed to Taiwan and continue to invest in Taiwan despite the economic downturn. With US$34 billion in permanent investments in Taiwan, Europeans are by far the largest group of foreign investors in many sectors of Taiwan's economy and are now focusing investments on leading-edge technology and know-how for renewable energy, smart cities and the next phase of the industrial development, so-called Industry 4.0, for example.

The chairman highlighted a key feature of ECCT members: their commitment to sustainability and the drive towards what is now referred to as the circular economy. He said that he welcomed statements made by President Tsai during her election campaign and in her inauguration speech that the new administration would boost energy conservation, increase the use of renewable energy, build smart grids, liberalise the electricity market and pursue a new economic model for sustainable development that would not forget responsibility for the environment. The chairman said that members of the ECCT fully supported these ideals and offered the chamber's assistance to the administration to make rapid progress towards meeting its goals. In this regard he pointed out that European companies have the most advanced technology and solutions to help Taiwan to increase energy efficiency in industry, buildings and transportation and that European countries have found the best workable and affordable policies that streamline the process for renewable energy projects, encourage innovation and expedite the shift to a low carbon economy. He pointed out that the path in Europe was not always easy. There was much trial and error and that if Taiwan could learn from Europe's experience, it could skip the trials and errors and get things right the first time.

The chairman concluded his speech by calling upon authorities in both the EU and Taiwan to expedite an EU-Taiwan Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA), noting that the ECCT has been calling for such an agreement since 2008. The case for a bilateral trade agreement that addresses non-tariff barriers is backed by two ECCT studies conducted in 2008 and 2012 that showed that a Trade Enhancement Measures (TEM) or similar agreement such as a BIA would boost economic activity and create jobs in both the EU and Taiwan. He prefaced his call by pointing out that the forces of globalisation cannot be stopped, especially by an economy the size of Taiwan's and that Taiwan has succeeded in the global economy until now by embracing openness, free trade, foreign companies and professionals and that it would therefore be counterproductive to try to roll back the clock. "For this reason we believe that it is in Taiwan's best interests to continue to maintain stable relations with its major trading partners, pursue trade liberalisation measures, adopt international standards and implement the best international practices to attract talent," he said.

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