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2013 Europe Day Dinner

The ECCT held its annual Europe Day Dinner on 16 May. The annual dinner held to celebrate the founding of the European Union was attended by over 650 distinguished guests including President Ma Ying-jeou, Frederic Laplanche, Head of the European Union's (EU) European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan (EETO), senior government officials and executives from European and Taiwanese companies. The theme of this year's dinner was "Promoting Business Nationwide", in line with the chamber's transition this year to the only foreign nationwide business association in Taiwan.

In his speech at the dinner Izzo said the ECCT hopes to build on the remarkable achievements it has made since its founding 25 years ago to promote business all across Taiwan. Representing the largest group of foreign investors in Taiwan with investments of more than US$31 billion dollars in all the major sectors of Taiwan's economy, the ECCT is aiming to expand its business activities and presence across the island as a nationwide association. In this regard the chairman said that the chamber had already visited Taichung twice and more visits are planned to Tainan and other major cities in the near future. "As we expand our activities, we will be encouraging more investment, promoting business development and sharing the most advanced standards and business practices across Taiwan," he said.

Izzo praised Taiwan for progress made in its competitiveness rankings by reaching its best ever level of 16th place in the World Bank's 2013 Doing Business Survey, remarking that progress made in recent years shows how flexible and dynamic Taiwan remains. However, he noted that despite progress, Taiwan is still less competitive than the other so-called Asian tiger economies of South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. "Taiwan is perceived as excellent at low cost manufacturing but not as good at innovation and creativity, which are key elements in the knowledge economy and are essential for Taiwan to move up the value chain," he said.

To succeed in a highly competitive world, the chairman said that Taiwan needs an education system that encourages questioning and fosters creativity and new ideas. The chairman noted that the Taipei European School is a model example of an excellent educational institution that is essential to attract foreign professionals with school-going children and investments to Taiwan. He therefore urged the national and Taipei City governments to continue to support the school's future development needs. He also recommended increasing cultural diversity and internationalization by attracting more foreign professionals and students to Taiwan and making it easier for them to live, work and study here.

Turning to business, the chairman said that Taiwan's failure to adopt international standards and practices hinders its competitiveness in a number of industries. He therefore urged authorities to accept EU standards and industry practices, which are among the world's most advanced. This, he said, would increase Taiwan's attractiveness as an investment destination and increase Taiwanese firms' competitiveness in the global market place.

In his speech Chairman Izzo reiterated the chamber's call to remove the ban or restrictions on goods manufactured in China and pursue an EU-Taiwan trade deal to take advantage of untapped potential to boost two-way trade, GDP and create jobs in both the EU and Taiwan. He also urged continued unilateral trade liberalization efforts to remove technical barriers to trade in order to create an open economy that will benefit industry and consumers. Furthermore, the chairman called for greater action to reduce Taiwan's greenhouse gas emissions: "There is room for significant energy savings if Taiwan adopts the most advanced technology and solutions to reduce consumption by energy intensive industries, retail stores, offices, residential buildings and white goods. The ECCT's Low Carbon Initiative was created to offer and develop solutions in partnership with the government and industry and we remain ready to work together with our Taiwanese partners to realize the vision of a low carbon future for Taiwan. Promoting low carbon products and technology would also spur economic activity and boost business opportunities, creating a virtuous cycle," he said.

The chairman concluded his speech by saying that he believes Taiwan remains a good place to live and do business and that the ECCT as a nation-wide chamber will work together with its partners in business and government to make an even greater contribution to Taiwan's economic development to build a more dynamic, sustainable and successful economy for the people of Taiwan.

In his speech at the dinner, EETO Head Frédéric Laplanche noted that Europeans were once again the largest source of new foreign investment in 2012 and that the ECCT's transition to an island-wide organisation is proof of even larger future ambitions. Laplanche said that EU-Taiwan relations remain healthy and that he wanted to further expand bilateral cooperation in priority sectors such as higher education, science and technology, climate change and environment, human rights, maritime piracy and nuclear safety. This, he said would build on a number of successful bilateral cooperation programmes already in place. He cited as an example a new research programme, co-funded by the EU and Taiwan that gathers data about greenhouse gases above the Pacific Ocean, thereby helping to understand the factors behind climate change in the region. The project was made possible thanks to cooperation between governments, scholars from Taiwan and Europe and Taiwanese corporations China Airlines and Evergreen. Laplanche also praised the ECCT for its strong and active engagement in favour of a low carbon economy: "We all know that, in Europe just as in Taiwan, higher standards in this field are not only good for the environment but also ultimately very good for the economy and business," he said.
Laplanche concluded his speech by saying that it is no longer disputed that trade liberalization is good for economic development and pledged the EU's commitment to work towards improving the bilateral environment for business in cooperation with the ECCT and the Taiwan administration.

In his speech President Ma Ying-jeou said that after years of steadily increasing European investments in Taiwan, it was time for more Taiwanese investments in Europe. On the subject of Free Trade Agreements, the president said that Taiwan is close to completing its FTA negotiations with Singapore and hopes to finalise its FTA with New Zealand in the near future. As these two countries are members of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), he hopes that deals with them will help Taiwan's case for joining the TPP. The president also reiterated the government's support for a trade agreement with the EU, which he said was important for Taiwan as the EU is Taiwan's fourth largest trading partner.

The Europe Day dinner was also an opportunity to enjoy some superb entertainment and cuisine. As 2013 marks the ECCT's 25th anniversary year, the chamber prepared a special video presentation to view some of the historic milestones in the ECCT's history. Titled "25 years of progress and prosperity", the video was an edited version of the one first presented at the ECCT's official 25th Anniversary celebration on 26 February.

After dinner, ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo handed over a donation to the Syin-Lu foundation, represented by Syin-Lu President, Mrs Pony Hsu. A portion of the proceeds from the dinner have been donated to the foundation every year for the past 13 years.