2016 Europe Day Dinner
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. In addition, they have created thousands of highly skilled and high-paying jobs. 99% of employees are Taiwanese nationals, who spend their salaries in Taiwan and 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. 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 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 the 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), saying that the case for such an agreement is backed by two ECCT studies showing that it 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.
In her speech EETO Head Madeleine Majorenko said that the EETO has a complementary relationship with the ECCT and that working together served to strengthen relations between Taiwan and Europe. She noted that the European economy is now entering its fourth year of recovery with steady growth and that the EU was Taiwan's fourth largest trading partner in 2015 while Taiwan was the EU's 18th largest trading partner. Trade in goods rose 10% in 2015 from the previous year to €48 billion. However, she expressed the view that trade and investment relations were not meeting their full potential.
She went on to tell Taiwanese business leaders that Europe remains open for business, noting that cooperation with Taiwan is already strong and healthy. As evidence of this strong and growing relations she referred to the recently concluded European Innovation Week, which brought a delegation of over 50 of Europe's most innovative companies and representatives from 24 clusters across Europe who had the possibility to meet and talk with Taiwanese industry and R&D partners. During the week a number of workshops focused on industry areas that President Tsai's government have identified as priority areas as you seek to revitalise Taiwan's economy. She said that European countries and companies are committed to seek added value collaborations and exploit complementarities to the mutual benefit of economies and citizens on both sides.
On the subject of a BIA, Majorenko said that the EU shared the ECCT's strong commitment to Taiwan in this regard and that this commitment is now articulated in an official strategy document of the European Commission. She stressed that making the agreement a reality will not happen overnight. It will require good preparations and sometimes difficult decisions. But she added that she was convinced that this process will strengthen the partnership between the EU and Taiwan.
In her speech President Tsai described the ECCT as a truly inclusive organization that has worked tirelessly over two decades to strengthen business and investment ties between the EU and Taiwan. She went on to thank the chamber for its remarkable contribution to Taiwan. Citing the EU as a beacon of democracy and freedom and proof that countries can work together, she said that the same universal values are deeply ingrained in Taiwan. On the basis of shared values, she expressed the desire to deepen Taiwan's already strong partnership with the EU.
In this regard she cited the signing of many bilateral agreements and an intensification of exchanges between the EU and Taiwan over the past three years. She also mentioned the number of activities that were part of European Innovation Week (EIW) highlighting the business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C) and cluster to cluster (C2C) matchmaking meetings that were organised between the European delegation's companies and cluster members and Taiwanese companies and clusters registered for the events, saying that her government was "thrilled" to see such dynamic interaction between the EU and Taiwan private sectors.
On the subject of the European Commission's mention of Taiwan in its recent trade policy paper, she thanked the ECCT and Taiwan's other European friends for making this possible and said that a BIA would be an impressive win-win for both the EU and Taiwan that would strengthen investment protection, boost investment and employment as well as improve the business environment for European companies doing business in Taiwan. She said that she was excited by the prospect of a BIA and looked forward to working towards it with her European counterparts. She noted that a BIA is especially important now given Taiwan's difficult economic situation.
Regarding the ECCT's Position Papers, the president said that the papers would serve as a valuable basis for dialogue and negotiation. She added that Taiwan will continue to adhere to international standards under her administration.
President Tsai spoke about her aim to turn Taiwan into a major base for innovation by focusing on five main areas: biotech, Taiwan's own version of Silicon Valley, smart machinery, green industry and defence. To achieve success, she said that partnership is vital and that the EU's experience and technology in areas such as clean energy and agriculture were a valuable reference for Taiwan. She also noted a strong synergy between the EU and Taiwan in several new technology areas, where further cooperation could lead to greater mutual benefits. She also mentioned the need to find ways to attract talent.
The Europe Day dinner was an opportunity to enjoy some superb entertainment and cuisine. Guests were treated to fine western cuisine and wine and a string quartet performance by students from the Taipei European School.
The dinner also served as a fund-raising event for charity. During the evening, ECCT Chairman Bernd Barkey handed over a donation to the Syin-Lu foundation, represented by its president, Pony Hsu. Established in 1987, the Syin-Lu Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes empowerment and economic self-sufficiency for the handicapped in Taiwan. A portion of the proceeds from the dinner have been donated to the foundation, every year for the past 18 years.