Part 1 – The Beginning
Formative catalysts, founding and the first year(click here to see PDF with photos)
On 26 January 1988, the ECCT held its first annual general meeting at the Bankers Club on Minsheng East Road, marking the formal launch of the chamber. This was the culmination of around 15 months of preparatory meetings and administrative groundwork.
Conditions were very favourable for the establishment of a European chamber of commerce in the late 1980s for a number of reasons, although three stand out. Firstly, European companies had been much slower after WWII than their US competitors to begin investing in Taiwan (with a few exceptions). However, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, traders and entrepreneurs from Europe were becoming increasingly active in Taiwan, albeit as British, Dutch, French or German rather than identifying themselves as European. Secondly, as their businesses developed, many of these companies found themselves more and more at a disadvantage vis-à-vis their American and Japanese competitors who were already well established, more numerous, better organised and had the political support of their governments, all of whom had far more influence with the ROC government than any individual European country. Finally, there was an increasing sense of ‘European-ness' in the business community, whereby national rivalries became less important than the need to compete in the global market and a there was an increasing desire to work together as Europeans.
Business environment in the 1980s
In the 1980s, the environment for business in Taiwan was generally good and it became increasingly better after martial law was lifted in 1987. As the ECCT's first chairman, John Brinsden put it, "As a small island with few natural resources Taiwan recognised the need to establish trading relations relationships with the west and generally welcomed foreign business people – provided one played the game by their rules! For Europeans, however, it was generally more difficult than for Americans and Japanese. With the exception of those that were familiar with Chinese culture, many found it hard to acclimatise (and many just gave up!) But the common problem was the difficulty of establishing Europe as a serious alternative against the hidden barriers of protectionism, tariffs, quotas, bilateral treaties and all the other paraphernalia of special relationships that favoured the long entrenched Americans and Japanese. The successful Europeans were those who had managed to establish their individual ‘brands' rather than their origins". Thus, in the European business community, there was a realization that their interests could be best served by establishing a European business chamber.
European presence in Taiwan in the 1980s
The ECCT presented its first position papers to the government in 1994. The papers were presented to PK Chiang (MoEA Minister at the time) at a dinner to discuss the regional operations concept and to Vice Premier Hsu Liteh at a dinner on 31 March. That dinner was also attended by Vincent Siew (CEPD Minister at the time) and PK Chiang. Papers included submissions from the Construction, Transportation, Banking, Marketing and Distribution committees. The Banking committee's paper gave proposals on how to promote Taiwan as a Regional Financial Centre.
The origins of the ECCT – how it all got started
In the mid-eighties, there was talk of starting a chamber but the first actual move was taken by the wife of the German manager of a German company operating in Taiwan. She had approached Hugues Mignot (then head of the Belgian Trade Office in Taipei) for a job and he suggested that she start a European Chamber of Commerce. She picked up the idea and called a preparatory meeting in the Bankers Club (a prestigious institution in Taipei at the time). The first meeting to discuss founding a chamber was held on 30 September 1986. It was attended by 49 business people. It took another 15 months or so before the formal procedures were settled. The inaugural general meeting was eventually held on 26 January 1988.
The first board elected at that meeting had nine directors and two alternate directors including Chairman John Brinsden, Vice Chairman Alex MacKinnon, Treasurer, DJ Bonnerman and Ruby Hsiao, Secretary to the Board. A board of three supervisors and one alternate supervisor was also elected, headed by Executive Supervisor W Diggelman. Eight trade representatives attended the inaugural meeting from the UK, Switzerland, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and Greece. Germany was absent and remained so for the first three years.
The first Secretary General of the secretariat was Stefaan Missinne and there was an initial staff of five. The official opening of the chamber, the second European chamber of commerce to be established outside Europe (after the Philippines) was marked by a lunch and ribbon-cutting ceremony on 22 September 1988. The event was attended by senior government officials including Kua An-hsu, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs.
Setting up a European chamber was a little difficult at first because there was no legal precedent and no regulations under which a chamber could be established. The only other chamber in existence at the time, AmCham, had been established unofficially in 1951, when Taiwan and mainland China were still technically at war. Many potential members were not prepared to join the ECCT unless it had legal status. Moreover, the chamber's founders were wary of contravening the secret society laws in force at the time. Therefore, from the start the founders were adamant that the chamber should be set up legally or not at all. Thus began the long process of establishing the legal and administrative framework that would satisfy the government and the chamber's founders. During this time of statutory limbo, although the ECCT had no official recognition, various senior officials attended the chamber's functions in their personal capacities, which gave the founders the chance to show that we were strictly non-threatening and indeed could bring real benefits to the ROC in acting as a bridge with the European business community. Finally legislation was passed to enable foreign business associations to be recognized, as a result of which both the ECCT (and later AmCham) eventually received official sanction in 1988.
Pan European approach
From the beginning, a pan-European approach was adopted to represent all national interests.
As John Brinsden wrote in the first issue of Euroview, "The chamber firmly believes in a multilateral approach to trade for we have all laboured too long under the distortions and inefficiencies brought about by protectionism, tariffs, quotas, bilateral treaties and special relationships."
It took a while for all Europeans to recognize the need for or value of the European chamber for various reasons. Certain British companies were already loosely affiliated in the form of a lunch club, which they wanted to keep going. Moreover, certain members of that club, upon noticing that the ECCT was becoming successful, wanted to set up their own chamber. Meanwhile, the German companies, who by instinct would have been willing participants, were already compelled by statute to be members of their own national chamber. This would not change until the early 1990s, when Jürgen John, who later became the first German ECCT chairman, broke ranks to join the ECCT, inspiring other German firms to join the chamber.
In the beginning there was a strong ambivalence from the trade offices towards the setting up of an association claiming to represent European business. While some such as the Belgian Trade Office were always supportive, others were wary of the ECCT usurping their role. To overcome this, trade offices were invited to participate in meetings in order to foster mutual understanding and trust. Over time this developed into active cooperation in a number of areas.
One of the main reasons that the ECCT was successful was because there were no pre-existing national European chambers (except the German chamber, which filled the role of trade office). This was unlike in many other countries where national chambers are very strong and moves to start a European chamber were often resisted. The chamber also made a concerted effort to get European national trade offices on board by inviting them to meetings and even to join the board of directors. Hugues Mignot from the Belgium Trade Office became the first European trade office representative to be elected to the ECCT's Board of Directors in 1989.
The first year
John Brinsden describes the chambers' first year as an ‘official' association as a "halcyon time compared to the disorder and blind alleys of the preceding period". The recruitment of a full time Secretary General and the strong mandate given to the board by the membership at the Inaugural General Meeting in January 1988, provided the catalyst for the year ahead.
In the space of the first year, there were a number of remarkable achievements. There was a sharp rise in individual membership from 52 at inauguration to 210 by the end of the first year. The chamber established its first permanent office on the 12th floor of the World Trade Building (at the time located at 50 Shinsheng South Road). The chamber also began to hold regular events, such as monthly lunches. The first events were wine tasting dinners or lunches at which overseas visitors in town were invited to give speeches. Later, the chamber began to invite government officials to be guest speakers at its events. Members regarded these gatherings as valuable occasions for networking since there were very few such-like opportunities at the time. Early monthly lunches would attract 30-50 people.
The chamber's bi-monthly magazine Euroview was launched in October 1988 to collect and publish members' views. The name originally suggested for the magazine YourView since it was aimed at publishing the views of the members rather than the committees, but the original idea quickly morphed to Euroview, a name which has been kept ever since. Even though martial law had been lifted in Taiwan, publishing a magazine with independent opinions at the time was still a novelty. While there wasn't any actual censorship of Euroview, the chamber was nevertheless very careful about what was published and never published articles of a sensitive or political nature. By the end of the first year the chamber had set up five committees and had taken up a number of issues of particular concern to members. These included non-discrimination in public project procurement, labour relations, pollution and the environment, conflict and discrimination in investment relations, restrictions of operations of foreign airlines particularly in airport access, freight congestion and the wine and tobacco monopoly. While success was limited in the early stages, it was the first time issues had been raised and marked the start to what eventually became a real dialogue with the government.
The beginning of the ECCT's advocacy efforts
The chamber's first advocacy efforts took the form of friendly meetings between members and the government, often also attended by European trade office representatives. The chamber also worked hard on the social side through regular lunches with high profile guest speakers and various national day celebrations in which the ECCT played a subsidiary role to the trade offices. This was calculated to project a softer, friendlier image and, as a result, more and more senior officials, including the President of the ROC, later became willing guests. The ECCT was a co-sponsor and organizer of the first Vienna Ball, which was held at the Lai Lai Sheraton hotel on 24 September 1988 (two days after the official opening ceremony of the chamber). 350 guests attended.
Since the beginning, the ECCT established an excellent working relationship with AmCham as there were many issues of mutual interest and a number of joint meetings were held which produced common position papers. This was particularly effective in the banking and finance sectors and to this day, the ECCT and AmCham still maintain a joint Banking committee.
The first major issue the chamber raised was to call upon the ROC government to open bidding on major government procurement projects to European bidders. A letter was sent to senior government officials making the case that "Europe offers a range of products and technology equal to and in many cases surpassing those available elsewhere and we firmly believe that only by opening public tenders to free competition will the Republic of China receive the best and most advantageous deal."
The CEPD chairman at the time, Frederick Chen, sent a courteous and frank response on behalf of the Prime Minister stating that "the ROC is in principle committed to an open market philosophy and welcomes competition from European and other free-world countries in supplying its needs."
By the end of the ECCT's first year, the chamber had recruited 210 members, set up a permanent office and secretariat, established five committees, launched its own magazine and started regular dialogue with the government. A solid foundation had been built for the expansion of activities and influence over the next quarter of a century.
Part 2 – 1989-1998
- The formative years(click here to see PDF with photos)
After the excitement of the ECCT's first year, the next decade was marked by a steady rise in the chamber's activities, reputation and influence. During the first decade, the chamber's activities and organisation became more structured and regular. The chamber's ability to gain access to senior government officials marked the beginning of the chamber's friendly and cooperative government relations, which laid the foundation for a successful advocacy track-record in later years. Besides regular government meetings, the chamber's activities became more structured with the introduction of Monthly Lunches and the annual Europe Day Dinner. During the early years, the ECCT's committees became more organized. Industry issues were identified, formulated and by 1994 committees began to write and submit position papers. The chamber's organizational structure also evolved and expanded during the first decade. In the early years, the chairman and board directors played the role of steering as well as running activities. The expansion of the secretariat gradually eased the administrative burden on the chairman and board and the appointment of the first CEO in 1995 allowed for the expansion of activities including ties with the European Union through the annual Open Door Mission to Brussels.
Government relations developments
Since the early days, the ECCT managed to gain access to the most senior government officials, including cabinet ministers. The chamber's first meeting with a sitting premier was in October 1990 with then Premier Hau Pei-tsun. Meetings with the premier were subsequently held annually after that first meeting while meetings with cabinet ministers and working level officials were frequently arranged. The chamber's first event with a sit ting president was when President Lee Tenghui at tended the annual dinner on Europe Day in 1991 (the event was not yet called the Europe Day Dinner), held on the actual Europe Day (9 May) in that year. In his speech at that event President Lee called for greater trade and welcomed European involvement in the government's six-year National Development Plan encompassing infrastructure (traditional and metro-railways, power plants, roads and highways).
First Open Door Mission to Brussels
Besides relations with the Taiwan government, the chamber maintained good relations with European trade offices in Taipei since its inception. These relations were expanded to include direct contact with the European Commission in 1995 with the chamber's first Open Door Mission to Brussels in September 1995. During that trip the delegation met with European Commission Vice President Sir Leon Brittan and Commissioner Dr Martin Bangermann. The second Open Door Mission took place on 20-21 October 1997 and was led by Paul Scholten, who later became ECCT Chairman. The Open Door Mission has since become a regular fixture on the chamber's annual calendar.
The ECCT presented its first position papers to the government in 1994. The papers were presented to PK Chiang (MoEA Minister at the time) at a dinner to discuss the regional operations concept and to Vice Premier Hsu Liteh at a dinner on 31 March. That dinner was also attended by Vincent Siew (CEPD Minister at the time) and PK Chiang. Papers included submissions from the Construction, Transportation, Banking, Marketing and Distribution committees. The Banking committee's paper gave proposals on how to promote Taiwan as a Regional Financial Centre.
The Europe Day Dinner
In 1989, the ECCT celebrated Europe Day on the actual Europe Day (9 May) although the event at the time was called the "annual dinner". The event was first referred to as the Europe Day Dinner in 1995 (the name it has gone by ever since). 200 guests at tended the 1989 dinner with guest of honour Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) Minister Dr Chen Li-an. (Vincent Siew took over as MoEA minister later in the same year). President Lee Teng-hui was the guest of honour at the 1991 dinner and again in 1996 and 1998. In 1995 Lien Chan, Premier & concurrently Vice President at the time, was the guest of honour. Lien was the guest of honour again in 1997.
Besides becoming the ECCT's largest annual business networking event, the dinner has always also served as a fundraising effort for the chamber's CSR programme. The ECCT's commitment to the local community was demonstrated in its very first year. The very first gala dinner organized by the chamber after its foundation in 1988 was a charity gala evening that raised over NT$3 million for the Cardiac Children's Foundation of the Republic of China, an association for children with heart defects. With fewer than 200 individual members at that time this was a remarkable achievement. The tradition was continued in subsequent years. For example, NT$500,000 from the proceeds of the 1994 Europe Day Dinner were donated to the ROC Talent Development Association for the disabled. The 1996 Europe Day Dinner donation went to the SOS Children's village in Chungli. For the past 13 years, the ECCT has donated a portion of proceeds to the Syin Lyu Foundation.
The first decade saw the launch and continuation of regular monthly lunches featuring a prominent guest from government or business. The primary aim of the Monthly Lunch was to bring together members on a regular basis to hear insights from an interesting guest. This signature activity provided networking opportunities, which were rare in Taipei at the time, and helped to boost the chamber's status and influence in the foreign
business and broader community.
During the first decade of the chamber's existence, the ECCT's committees became better organized. They began to hold regular meetings with government agencies and later began to prepare annual position papers (the first position papers were prepared in 1994).
In 1989, the financial committee was split into three entities, which remain in operation to this day. The banking and financial services committee was renamed simply "banking" and the Insurance and Securities (today known as Asset Management) committees were spun off into two separate entities. By August 1991 the Education committee had been discontinued, leaving seven committees. By December 1992, the chamber had added a Communications committee, bringing the number of committees to eight in total.
The Greater China committee was set up on 22 June 1993 in recognition of Taiwan's growing ties to China (the ROC had become the second largest foreign investor in China). The committee was set up for members to share information and exchange views and experience about business opportunities in Greater China, Taiwan's role in China, investment in mainland China and the regulatory environment. The committee also arranged a field trip to Beijing where they arranged a seminar on 24 September on the subject "Protecting and Enforcing your rights in China" – co-sponsored by the ECCT and AmCham.
Early advocacy issues
Spot the similarities – deja vous all over again
While the ECCT has made remarkable progress over the years in addressing its issues, members familiar with the chamber's position papers from recent years will notice, looking at issues raised in the first 10 years of the chamber, that there are a number of recurring themes.
The ECCT's investment committee in the early years focused on tax treatment regarding European investment income including high rates of withholding tax on dividends, royalties and interest income. The committee also advocated the continuation of investment and tax incentives under the Statute for the Encouragement of Investment(SEI). In July 1989, the ECCT called for relaxation on rules governing mergers and acquisitions.
At the time of the chamber's founding, there was an annual quota on new entrants or a restriction on the range of services that they could offer. There were also restrictions in terms of reserve requirements, capital adequacy ratios, ceilings on deposit and lending rates, gaps in exposure limits, limitations on the activities of specific firms. By 1989 there were already 10 European banks with branches in Taiwan.
Liberalisation of the importation of alcoholic beverages was an important issue in the early days of the chamber. Demand was outstripping supply and the chamber argued that liberalization would help to discourage smuggling and increase the authenticity of legitimate products.
Trade and Distribution was focused on trade liberalization, the breaking up of monopolies such as state-controlled petroleum, wine and tobacco companies.
Beefing up the secretariat
In 1995, Theo Stiftl took on the newly created position as Chief Executive Officer, a position created to streamline and professionalise the ECCT's operations and reduce the workload of the board of directors. The Secretary General position remained in place but was phased out two years later in 1997. To improve government relations, Jerry Fong was hired as the chamber's first Government Liaison Director in 1997, a position he still holds today.
In the same year, the chamber began the practice of hiring a dedicated person to take care of communications.
In February 1991, the ECCT moved to a new office on Tunhua North Road with a conference room for 15 and enough space for a staff of four. The ECCT moved to its office on Zhongxiao East Road (where it remains today) in January 1994.
First members' survey
The ECCT first members' survey was sent to members in April 1991. Highlights of results were published in August-September 1991 issue of Euroview.
Cooperation with AmCham
The ECCT held a joint symposium with AmCham in early 1992 on the subject of the Fair Trade Law. The event was attended by 150 people. The ECCT also cooperated with AmCham on environmental protection issues. The ECCT's Environmental Protection committee meetings at the time were open to their AmCham counterparts. In the early days, one director on the board was assigned to act as the liaison director with AmCham. To this day, the ECCT maintains regular contact and cooperation with AmCham and the chambers share a joint Banking committee.
In the autumn of 1995, the ECCT visited the now discontinued Taichung Provincial Assembly in Taichung at the invitation of Governor James Soong.
Courting the opposition
The ECCT has always remained politically neutral and has from time to time visited or hosted leaders from both of Taiwan's major political parties. In February 1996, the chamber hosted Shih Mingteh, then Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at a luncheon. In September 1994, the chamber also hosted then Legislator Chen Shuibien when he was a candidate running for mayor of Taipei city.
ECCT's entry into the Internet age
By October 1996, the ECCT had already launched its first website. To cover costs, rotating banner advertisements from supporting members were displayed.
Part 3 – 1999-2008
- The growth and development years(click here to see PDF with photos)
The decade from 1999-2008 was the period in the chamber's history that witnessed the strongest growth in membership, committees and staff, all of which enabled a sharp increase in chamber activities, thereby boosting the chamber's
profile and influence.
The decision to hire a full time CEO in 1995 enabled an increasing level ofprofessionalism of the chamber's activities and services. The hiring of more staff in the years that followed allowed the chamber to expand its activities and services.
The running of chamber and its activities became more structured and organized in 2002 when the secretariat set up a new committee organisational framework covering the establishment of working groups, planning annual calendars of events, the production of position papers and the development of effective media and
Of specific importance to the chamber's advocacy efforts was the decision in 2004 to hire dedicated staff for the Automotive and Pharmaceutical committees to serve the specific needs of these committees. ECCT Chairman from 2003-2005, Dirk Sänger, remarked in his Euroview column in February-March 2005 the proof of success of this strategy a new bill in the legislature that guaranteed better IP protection for pharmaceutical companies. The steady stream of advocacy successes attributed to dedicated staff for these and other committees in the years following the initial success offered further evidence of the effectiveness of the strategy to hire dedicated staff.
Membership grew significantly in thechamber's second decade, particularly between 2002 and 2005, thanks to proactive recruitment strategies on the part of the board and secretariat. Soon af ter Di rk Sänger took over as chai rman in the second half of 2003, he repor ted a strong rise in ECCT membership (up 50 in 2002 and up another 50 in the first half of 2003). In Issue 92 of Euroview (April- May 2004), Sänger repor ted that membership had reached a record high of 280 companies and 478 individuals. By September 2004, Dirk Sänger noted that the chamber had achieved a 50% membership growth rate over the past two years to 300 corporate members and 500 individuals. By the end of 2005, membership had risen to close to 350 companies and 600 individuals.
In line with membership growth, the number of ECCT commit tees more than doubled in the chamber's second decade thanks to better organisation int erna l ly and g reat er access to government and more meetings with a larger number of government ministries and agencies. The ECCT established around a dozen commit tees in its first decade. By the end of the second decade the number of committees more than doubled. Notable additions in the second decade included:
Better Living: In May 2000, the ECCT set up of the Better Living committee to work with the Taipei city government on ways to improve the living environment. Two months later the committee's BetterTaipei Living Survey results were published in an article in Euroview. Among other conclusions, the article offered suggestions to the Taipei City Government to repair and unblock pavements and improve traffic law enforcement.
Intellectual Property Rights: The IPR committee was set up in early 2002. John Eastwood was a founding cochairperson and remains so today.
Travel & Tourism: Later in 2002, the Travel & Tourism committee was set up while other committees were reinvigorated. At the time, the ECCT had 15 committees with another three inthe planning stages.
Luxury Goods: The Luxury Goods committee was established in early 2004.
Technology: The Technology committee was set up in mid-2004.
Agro-Chemical : In the second half of 2005, the ECCT set up the Agro-Chemical commit tee. Soon after its establishment the committee visited the Taipei IntellectualProperty Office (TIPO) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs(MoEA). Issues discussed included problems of IPR, trademark and trade-dress infringements.
Market Research: In the same year, the chamber set up the Market Research committee, bringing the number of committees to 27.
According to Theo Stiftl, ECCT CEO from 1995-2002 , Taiwan's WTO accession talks (leading up to Taiwan's WTO accession in 2002) provided an opportunity for the ECCT to make progress on certain issues. One issue was car import dut ies, which were very high at the time. There were also issues facing the banking industry. Prior to Taiwan's WTO entry, there were significantly more restrictions on foreign banks, which were lifted ahead of Taiwan's accession. The implementation of the Tobacco & Alcohol Administrative Law (TAAL), approved by the Legislative Yuan in June 1999 brought a formal end to the era of the monopoly for the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau. The monopoly had been total until 1987 when foreigners were first permitted to import wine and, a few years later, spirits. The monopoly had been gradually eroded in the ensuing years. The market opening measures in the new act were made as
part of Taiwan's commitments to the EU and the US in its WTO negotiations. However, there were (and remain to this day) a number of issues facing European producers. At the time one of the biggest issues facing European importers was
the abundance of "look-alikes" of their beverages in Taiwan.
The ECCT began making the call for cross-Strait business normalization in 2005. This was one of the central themes of several position papers during ECCT Chairman Ralf Scheller's term. While the most progress towards normalization
only occurred after 2008, in the form of direct links, the freer movement of people and goods and eventually the ECFA, there were several other lobbying breakthroughs during Ralf Scheller's two-year term. Many related to government regulations changing at short notice. "We made the government aware that it was not helpful to business to make sudden changes without giving business enough time to prepare," according to Scheller.
One example occurred in 2006 when the government announced that the Chinese have "different drinking habits" from westerners and that they drink much stronger alcohol and in much larger quantities and that the level of sulphur dioxide in European wines was therefore much too high given the drinking habits of the Chinese. European wine importers in Taiwan were afraid that their business would be decimated if the new sulphur dioxide rules were imposed. Thanks to ECCT pressure over many meetings and several months, a compromise solution was reached. The government raised the maximum sulphur dioxide (SO2) level for alcoholic beverages to 400 milligrams per litre (mg/ l) while the maximum methanol content for grape wines was raised to 2,000 mg/l. As a consequence of these measures, all European wines were able to pass the requirements.
The ECCT's Automotive committee also saw steady progress on its issues. In 2006, the government agreed to adopt Euro 4 standards for diesel engines. Another area of important breakthroughs was the acceptance of reports for car testing certificates such as the acceptance of European crash test certificates. The government had previously required car crash tests to be done in Taiwan. This was very expensive, especially for small volume importers. Taiwan also introduced its own unique bus height standards, which were not in line with European and other international standards. These rules were subsequently changed following ECCT pressure.
Gradual progress was made in reducing the number of items manufactured in China that were either banned or restricted from importation into Taiwan. For example, between 2004 and 2005, the ban on 75 items from the PRC import ban list were lifted. Other progress made in that year included the introduction of data exclusivity regulations for the pharmaceutical industry while improvements were made in customs clearance by shipping agencies through electronic filing and restrictions were eased on the PRC visitors to multinationalsin Taiwan.
The ECCT continued to visit Brussels for its annual Open Door Missions every year in the second decade. The delegation met with very senior officials, especially in the years leading up to Taiwan's WTO accession. During the sixth open door mission held from 28-29 November 2000, the delegation met with European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten and the Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy.
The seventh open door mission was held in November 2001. The delegation was led by Vice chairman Paul Zeven from Philips and included a meeting with Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
In Issue 84 of Euroview an interview with Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy was printed. In the interview, Lamy noted that the PRC import ban was an important issue for European firms.
In a report on the tenth annual Open Door Mission, then ECCT CEO Wittich wrote that progress on data exclusivity had
been helped by the European Commission.
The EU's representative office in Taiwan, the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) was opened in 2003. An introductory interview with the first EETO Head, Brian McDonald was published in Euroview Issue 85 (March-April 2003) a few months ahead of the official opening. Pierre Defraigne, Deputy Director General of Trade traveled to Taiwan for the official opening of the EETO on 22 July. He spoke at an ECCT lunch on the same day. His speech was published in full in
Euroview Issue 87 (July-August 2003). In his speech, Defraigne said the EETO's core business would be to boost trade and investment ties.
In his capacity as EETO Head Brian McDonald was invited to give a speech at the 2003 Europe Day Dinner. Since then, the EETO has always been invited to speak at the dinner together with the Taiwan president and the ECCT Chairman.
The EBO Worldwide Network
The ECCT participated in the first regional European chamber conference from 28-29 April 2005 in Bangkok. This was the
precursor to the Worldwide Network of European Business Organisations (EBO). EU Trade commissioner Peter Mandelson attended the event.
Later in the year (from 30-31 May 2005), an ECCT delegation attended a regional forum on IPR protection from 30-31 May.
Wining and dining
The ECCT held the first in a series of wine tasting dinners in 2004. Subsequent events became popular regular fixtures for gourmets and wineexperts in Taipei.
The annual gala ball became known as one of highlights of the Taipei social calendar. Themes varied every year. In 2000, the theme was Limericks and Leprecauns and featured Irish dancing, singing, food and beverages.
The ECCT's 2000 Christmas lunch featured TES children singing for the second consecutive year. The TES choir has been a fixture of the Christmas lunch ever since.
ECCT and Charity
Charity Golf Cup
The inaugural ECCT-ICRT InternationalCharity Golf Cup was held in pouring rain at Royal Kuan Hsi Golf Club. It has been held annually ever since at a variety of golf courses, usually in better weather.
The ECCT organized a relief fund following the "921" earthquake that generated NT$4.5 million in donations and a charity dinner that brought in NT$1.7 million by auctioning off items donated by members and other items. This included a jacket by then Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou.
The ECCT hosted vice presidential candidate Annette Lu at an ECCT lunch ahead of the 2000 presidential election. Her address included an explanation of her vice presidential campaign issues including business, human rights and mainland China.
On 22 August 2005 an ECCT delegation headed by Chairman Dirk Sänger met with Premier Frank Hsieh and government ministers, Ho Mei-Yueh (MOEA), Joseph Wu (MAC), Hou Sheng-Mou (DoH) as well as other senior government officials from the Ministry of Finance and the CEPD at the Executive Yuan. The delegation also included Vice Chairman Ralf Scheller and senior committee co-chairs.
On 8 December Premier Frank Hsieh was the guest of honour at the ECCT's December monthly luncheon held in conjunction with AmCham. The event was attended by some 180 ECCT and AmCham members and more than a dozen
journalists from all of Taiwan's leading newspapers and cable TV news stations.
On 5 October, the ECCT took a trip to Taoyuan County to visit Taoyuan County Magistrate Eric Chu (Li-luan). The ECCT delegation was headed by Chairman Ralf Scheller, CEO Guy Wittich and representatives from the Logistics and Travel
and Tourism committees.
Political debate : The ECCT's January 2006 Monthly Members' Luncheon hosted two legislators (from the governing and opposition parties) to give their views. Hsiao Bi-Khim, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and Joanna Lei from the opposition Kuomintang Party on the provocative topic: «Between Elections - Power struggle and economic impasse?».
On 29 November 2007 KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou announced his economic plans at a special luncheon jointly hosted by foreign business chambers – the ECCT, AmCham, BCCT and ANZCham.
On 26 May 2008, the ECCT's May Monthly luncheon hosted Dr PK Chiang, newly installed Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). Addressing the ECCT on his first day in the office, Chiang spoke about what is on the agenda for talks with the PRC in the coming months. This marked the beginning of rapid progress on cross-Strait business normalization over the next few years.
On 25 June, an ECCT delegation headed by Chairman Philippe Pellegrin visited newly appointed Chairperson of the cabinet level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Dr Lai Shin-yuan.
Launch of TEM study
On 6 October 2008, the October Monthly Members Luncheon, held in conjunction with the ECCT's Business Forum on EU-Taiwan investment and trade relations was the forum to announce the results of the recently completed study conducted by Copenhagen Economics on the impact that an EU-Taiwan Trade Enhancement Measures (TEM) agreement would have for both Taiwan and the EU. Martin H Thelle, Partner at Copenhagen Economics and research project leader gave a summary of the main findings of the study, "Taiwan: Enhancing Opportunities for European Business". The study was updated in 2012.
Part 4 – 2009-2013
- Maturity to a new era(click here to see PDF with photos)
The years from 2009 to 2013 marked the chamber's coming of age and transition to a new era as a nationwide association. The strong performance of the chamberin the face of the global financial crisis proved its resilience while the transition to a nationwide association has demonstrated the ECCT's commitment to expanding its presence and influence all across Taiwan. The period was also marked by even stronger relations with the government and Taiwanese business organisations. To improve awareness about the chamber and its activities among the general public, the ECCT also increased its interactions with the media and launched a Chinese version of its website in 2011.
Cruising through the crisis
While the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008 hit Taiwan and the global economy hard, the ECCT showed resilience. Despite the crisis, 2009 proved to be yet another very successful year for the chamber with membership increasing at a steady pace, significant successes in advocacy and a high level of activity. 2009 saw a slew of events about the global economic crisis including a business summit and monthly or special luncheons on the economy with financial institutions including Calyon, Societe Generale, HSBC and Deutche Bank and the government. In 2009, the chamber held over 150 activities, attracting more than 5,000 attendees.
The topic of the March Monthly Luncheon on 27 March 2009 was a "EUTaiwan business summit: Turning the crisis into a strategic advantage for your business" with Keynote speaker: Martin Hirt, Managing Director of McKinsey & Co. and distinguished panellists: Morris Chang, Founding Chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC); Nicholas Winsor, CEO of HSBC Taiwan (who later became ECCT Chairman) and Christina Y Liu, Chief Economic Advisor at Daiwa Japan Institute of Research (who later became CEPD Minister). The summit, jointly hosted by the ECCT and the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association (CIECA) was officially opened by ECCT Chairman Philippe Pellegrin and CIECA Chairman Wang Chung-you. The panellists engaged in a lively discussion following a keynote presentation by Martin Hirt.
The February Monthly Luncheon on 25 February 2009 was on the topic "After the 2009 Shockwave: When economic recovery can be expected and what will have changed?" Featured panelists were Mitul Kotecha, Head of Global Foreign Exchange Strategy, Calyon and Sebastien Barbe, Senior Economist Asia, Calyon and political & economic commentator, ShenFu-Hsiung.
The theme of the 2008-2009 Position Papers also reflected the mood of the times. The theme "Steering out of the Storm: EU-Taiwan Partnership during Turbulent Times" reflected the view of the chamber that a stronger partnership between Taiwan and European business would help considerably to weather the global economic crisis that was affecting economies the world over including Taiwan and the EU.
Given the steady growth in membership and higher revenue from events, the chamber's financial position remained healthy throughout the crisis despite adverse economic conditions, which saw Taiwan's GDP growth stagnate to 0.7% in 2008 and fall 1.8% in 2009.
The economic crisis also led to an increase in advocacy efforts. Thanks to these efforts, of the 164 business issues raised in the ECCT's 2008-2009 Position Papers, 42 issues were either resolved or saw significant progress.
For example, progress was made in the complicated issue of customs clearance following an ECCT visit to the Directorate General of Customs, Ministry of Finance including Lee Mao, Deputy Director General of the Directorate General (DG) of Customs. Rapid progress made in the years following this breakthrough resolved most of the issues raised by the Customs committee. The committee has not released a position paper since 2011. The same is true of the Maritime and Product Certification committees. The Product Certification committee issued its last paper in 2010 while the Maritime committee issued its last paper in 2007.
Thawing of cross-Strait relations
The election of Ma Ying-jeou as ROC President in 2008 marked the beginning of thaw in Taiwan's relations with mainland China. The ECCT kept its members up to date through periodical events with government officials engaged in cross-Strait relations, notably the Chairpersons of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).
On 20 January 2009 MAC Minister Dr Lai Shin-yuan addressed a packed meet ing of members at tending the ECCT's first Monthly Luncheon of 2009. Dr Lai was introduced by ECCT Chai rman Phi l ippe Pel legr in who congratulated her and her ministry's remarkable achievements in normalising cross-Strait business relations since taking office in May 2008, noting that many of the ECCT's recommendations have been followed and implemented in the negotiations.
On 30 November Francis Liang, Vice Mini s ter of the Ministry of Economic Affairs gave members an introduction to ECFA and the implications of opening up to investment by foreign and local enterprises.
At the September 2010 Monthly Luncheon Dr PK Chiang, Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) was the guest speaker on the subject of cross-Strait relations.
The government embarked on a process of restructuring and reform in 2009. To brief members on the ambitious government reform plans, the chamber invited Dr Jiang Yi-huah, then Minister of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) to a special lunch on 12 March 2009.
The ECCT's May Monthly Members' Luncheon on 27 May 2009 featured a forum on the subject of tourism in Taiwan. This was a halcyon time for the travel & tourism industry following Taiwan's opening up to mainland Chinese tourists. The speakers and panelists included Stanley Yen, Group President, The Landis Hotels & Resorts; Dr Mao Chi-kuo, Minister of Transportation & Communication; Josef Dolp, Area Managing Director, Taiwan, Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts
& Chairman of the ECCT's Travel ECCT HISTORY & Tourism Commit tee; Christophe Pairaud, General Manager, Accor Group Taiwan; Zhang Yun, General Manager Taiwan, Air China and Adrian Harley, General Manager, Taiwan & Korea, Cathay Pacific. Panelists concurred that Taiwan has great potential to develop into a haven for tourism and that the government had demonstrated its sincere commitment to achieving this goal. While applauding the Ma administration's
large budget allocations to tourism infrastructure and promotion over the next four years, the panellists stressed the need for careful planning to ensure a balanced and sustainable business model for the tourism industry.
On 2 June 2010, Mauro Petriccione, Director of the Directorate General of Trade at the European Commission gave a speech to members on the topic "Boosting EU-Taiwan trade ties: The European Commission's role in promoting EU-Taiwan trade". In his speech, Petriccione spoke about the current status of EU-Taiwan trade relations and where Taiwan fits in the EU's global trade and economic strategies.
On 22 June 2010, Dr Lu Shyue-ching, Chairman & CEO of Chunghwa Telecom gave a speech at the Monthly Luncheon
on the topic: "Telecom transformation and cloud computing".
Douglas Hsu, Chairman of the Far Eastern Group was the guest speaker at the June 2011 Monthly Luncheon on the topic "The formula for Taiwan's future success: How to capitalize on trends and new business opportunities in the greater China region". Hsu spoke about the outlook for the Far Eastern Group, which comprises over 190 companies operating in 10 industries including telecommunications, textiles, cement, retail, finance, petrochemicals, hotels and transport.
ROC Vice President Vincent Siew was the guest of honour at the November 2011 Monthly Members' Lunch, held to mark the milestone of surpassing US$30 billion in European Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in Taiwan, which was reached in October 2011. In recognition of the Taiwan government's role in the development of Taiwan-European business ties, ECCT Chairman Chris James, together with ECCT board directors, handed over a commemorative plaque to the Taiwan government represented by Vice President Siew at the lunch.
The guest speaker at the August 2012 Monthly Lunch was Leslie Koo, Vice Chairman of the Chinese National Federation of Industries & Chairman, Taiwan Cement Corporation. The event was attended by senior executives from Taiwanese firms, who are members of the Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI ), a non-prof it organization consisting of 155 member associations, each of which represent specific industries including steel, textiles, IT, chemicals and automobiles. Collectively, member associat ions represent more than 90,000 companies in Taiwan. Established in 1948, the CNFI is one of the most inf luential opinion leaders in terms of government policy advocacy in Taiwan. In his speech, Koo's offered some advice to businesses in tough economic times.
Lin Wen-yen, President of Tatung Company was a guest speaker at a special lunch on the subject "Towards smarter grids and smarter homes: The rise and development of smart grid technology in the EU and Taiwan". The event also featured a presentation by ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo in his professional capacity as General Manager of STMicroelectronics.
The chamber arranged a number of field trips outside Taipei for members between 2009 and 2013.
In April 2009, the ECCT visited the global headquarters of bicycle company, Giant, in Taichung following the chamber's April Monthly Members‘ Luncheon with Taichung Mayor Jason Hu.
In March 2011 a delegation led by Chairman Chris James, Vice Chairman Peter Weiss and CEO Freddie Hoeglund, accompanied by board directors, committee chairs and around 40 members took a day-trip to Kaohsiung for the March Monthly Members' Luncheon. The trip included a face to face meeting with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, lunch with Deputy Mayor Lee Yung-te, a tour of China Steel Corporation's plant and a visit to the National Stadium, venue of the 2009 World Games.
Contact with regional European chambers
Besides field trips arranged for members, the chamber also began to arrange annual visits to sister European chambers in Asia. The visits have become an important part of the chamber's efforts to strengthen relations with other European chambers in the European Business Organizations' Worldwide Network (EBO). The EBO Worldwide Network was formally founded on 22 April 2011 with 13 founding European member chambers and business organisations. The ECCT's Freddie Hoeglund was elected as the EBO's first Vice Chairman, and has retained that position ever since. EBO membership has since increased to 25 member chambers. EBO CEOs meet twice annually, once in Brussels and once in member chambers' countries, on a rotating basis. For its part, the ECCT arranges at least one visit for its members to a European chamber in Asia every year.
In September 2010, ECCT CEO Freddie Hoeglund led a delegation of 11 ECCT board directors and members on a trip to Shanghai to visit the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC), Shanghai branch and the Shanghai Exposition.
On 29 November 2010 the ECCT hosted Piter de Jong, Chairman, European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC) and Dr Ioana Kraft, General Manager, EUCCC, Shanghai Chapter at a special lunch to present the EUCCC's 2010/2011 Position Paper. The EUCCC visit was arranged following the ECCT's visit to Shanghai two months previously where the ECCT and EUCCC decided to increase cooperation with regards to information sharing and helping each other to arrange speakers for events in both Taipei and Shanghai.
In October 2011, an ECCT delegation headed by Vice Chairman Olivier Rousselet and CEO Freddie Hoeglund travelled to Beijing to visit its counterpart in that city, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC).
The ECCT visited South Korea in 2012 and Vietnam in 2013.
Under the EBO Worldwide Network, the ECCT was granted funding by the European Commission as part of a consortium, called GNSS.asia, of five European chambers (from China, South Korea, Japan, India and Taiwan). This was the first time that the ECCT applied for and won a bid to run a large-scale EU project in cooperation with other European chambers in the EBO Worldwide Network.
The global navigation satellite system (GNSS) Asia project falls under the EU's FP7 programme and is linked to promoting technology development related to the Galileo satellite project. The GNSS.asia consortium's objective is to develop potential research and industrial partnerships between EU and Asian organisations, including those in Taiwan, where the particular focus is on developing EU-Taiwan industry partnerships in the Besides the annual Europe Day Dinner and occasional forums, the chamber held a number of large-scale events between 2009 and 2013. These included three telecom forums (in 2009, 2010 and 2012) and the launch of the ECCT's Low Carbon initiative. GNSS downstream sector. The GNSS.asia project began at the start of 2012 and runs for 30 months.
Besides the annual Europe Day Dinner and occasional forums, the chamber held a number of large-scale events between 2009 and 2013. These included three telecom forums (in 2009, 2010 and 2012) and the launch of the ECCT's Low Carbon initiative.
The first EU-Taiwan Telecommunications Forum was held on 20 November 2009. Hosted by the ECCT's Telecommunication, Media & Content (TMC) committee, the event brought together experts and policy makers from the EU and Taiwan to share information on regulations and best practices as well as discuss trends in the telecommunications field. The audience included senior European and Taiwanese business executives from operators as well as handset manufacturers and technology providers, senior government officials and representatives of EU institutes and trade offices.
On 7 December 2010, the second EU-Taiwan Telecommunications Forum was held. The third forum held, on 13 March 2012, combined telecom and technology industry topics and the event was extended from a half-day event to a full day programme. The forum was attended by 120 members of the ECCT and their guests.
The April 2010 Monthly Luncheon featured a forum with a panel of leading business and trade promotion organisations on the topic "Solidifying EU-Taiwan business cooperation: Promoting mutual interests and exploring new opportunities". Prominent guests were Chao Yuen-chuan, President & CEO, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA); David Liu, Secretary-General, Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association (CIECA); Jack Huang, Secretary-General, Importers and Exporters Association of Taipei (IEAT). In 2013, the chamber discontinued Monthly Luncheons in favour of Premium Events. The change was made in order to give the chamber the flexibility to hold more than one major event in any given month.
The Low Carbon Initiative
The ECCT established the Low Carbon Initiative (LCI) in 2011 with the objective to showcase the best European low carbon solutions and practices across a broad range of industries, to raise awareness about sustainable development and promote the adoption of low carbon solutions in order to help Taiwan to reduce its carbon emissions.
The LCI's inaugural Exhibition and Conference was held on 12 June 2012. The event showcased European solutions to lower carbon emissions in Taiwan to facilitate Taiwan's efforts to shift to a low carbon economy and society. The event featured an opening ceremony with VIP guests, including ROC Vice President Wu Den-yih, an exhibition, a conference and a lunch with a speech by Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration Minister Shen Shu-hung. To highlight the best practices of LCI founding members, exhibition booths displayed a comprehensive array of products, technical solutions and services that are designed to lower carbon emissions. The conference, featuring panelists from a wide range of industries, served as a platform for industry experts from Europe and Taiwan to share information on best practices, as well as discuss trends and business opportunities in the fields of sustainable urban development, transportation and industrial low carbon solutions. The event culminated in a lunch featuring a speech by the EPA minister.
The LCI has gone on to release a publication, arrange and participate in numerous events to raise awareness about low carbon solutions and sustainability in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Tainan.
Special reports and publications
The ECCT published a number of reports between 2008 and 2013 including two reports promoting a Trade Enhancement Measures Agreement between the EU and Taiwan and several reports in partnership with research institutes and member companies.
On 29 June 2009, the chamber released a special report titled Energy Saving Measures for Taiwan's Built Environment: Technologies and strategies to improve the energy efficiency of Taiwan's existing and new buildings. The report was the product of research conducted by the ECCT's Energy Conservation Steering committee under the Energy and Environment committee. The report drew on results of a simulation conducted by the National Taipei University of Technology as well as best practices and cutting-edge technologies from Europe to improve energy efficiency.
At the September 2012 Monthly Lunch, the chamber released followup study examining the impact of a potential trade deal between the EU and Taiwan. The report, commissioned by the ECCT to Copenhagen Economics, was a follow-up to its original 2008 study on the potential impact of a free trade deal between the EU and Taiwan. The report's main findings were presented to members at the ECCT's Monthly Members' Lunch and to the media at a press conference held directly afterwards by Martin Thelle, Partner at Copenhagen Economics.
On 20 November 2012, the ECCT's Low Carbon Initiative released its publication "Low Carbon 2013 – Solutions for a low carbon future". The report was initiated and supported by the ECCT's 20 LCI member companies. Besides a comprehensive analysis of Taiwan's GHG emissions, the report offers an array of readily-available solutions offered by European firms that would help Taiwan to reduce its emissions. 22 January 2013 marked the launch of inaugural Michael Page Salary & Employment Forecast 2013 for Taiwan. The report was produced by Michael Page and released in association with the ECCT.
The beginning of a new era
2013 marked the chamber's transition from a Taipei-based to a nation-wide association, the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan. The official inauguration was held on 26 February at the Grand Hotel which marked both the ECCT's 25th anniversary lunch and the official inauguration of the chamber as a nation-wide association.
The chamber is now the only foreign nation-wide business chamber in Taiwan. The chamber's new status is aimed at expanding the chamber's reach and activities to the whole of Taiwan. It also allows the ECCT to hold official dialogue with local municipal governments all around Taiwan on behalf of its members and host activities across Taiwan.
The event was attended by around 300 ECCT members and prominent guests. They included President Ma Yingjeou, Minister of the Interior Lee Hongyuan, former Vice President Vincent Siew, senior cabinet officials, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin as well as eight former ECCT Chairmen, including the ECCT's first Chairman back in 1988, John Brinsden, and three former CEOs.
Since the transition to a nationwide association, the chamber has maintained its close relations with the Taipei City Government but also begun to expand its activities beyond Taipei to other cities in Taiwan.
On 8 March 2013, the ECCT held its annual round table lunch with Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin.
In April 2013, a 50-member ECCT delegation visited Taichung where they had lunch with Mayor Jason Hu and toured the headquarters of TSMC's Solar division and Hiwin Technologies Corporation. Following that trip, the chamber has set up a Central Taiwan committee to serve members in the greater Taichung area.
In June 2013, a 25-member ECCT delegation headed by Vice Chairman Godwin Chang and CEO Freddie Hoeglund and comprising ECCT board directors and committee chairpersons travelled to Tainan to meet with Tainan Mayor William Lai (Ching-de) and senior Tainan City Government officials. The delegation held a roundtable working lunch with the city government after which they visited National Cheng Kung University where they briefed a delegation of senior university officials and staff about the ECCT's Low Carbon Initiative.
The ECCT met with Mayor Lai again at the 2013 Asia Pacific Cities Summit (APCS) in Kaoshiung from 9-11 September 2013. The event attracted 1,300 participants including representatives from 100 cities (including 85 mayors). At the summit the ECCT's LCI took part by hosting one of three discussion panels held simultaneously on the topic "Low-Carbon
City Initiatives". Five LCI members gave presentations (Bosch, Ford, Siemens, STMicroelectronics and TÜV Rheinland) on case studies of low-carbon solutions from their respective industries.
At the closing ceremony of the APCS, the ECCT met with Tainan Mayor William Lai where they discussed collaboration on the Low Carbon City Conference to be co-hosted by the Tainan City Government and other joint initiatives with the ECCT's Low Carbon Initiative in 2013 and 2014.
This marked the beginning of what promises to be a long and successful partnership with Tainan and other cities around Taiwan.