2017 Europe Day Dinner
The ECCT hosted its largest and most prominent annual event, the Europe Day Dinner with the theme "Building Lasting Economic Momentum". 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. 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. At the dinner speeches were given by President Tsai, the EETO Head and the ECCT chairman Hakan Cervell.
In his speech at the dinner ECCT Chairman Håkan Cervell cited figures indicating that Taiwan's economy is showing signs of robust recovery and that it was in the mutual interests of the government and business to sustainthis recovery. "To build lasting economic momentum Taiwan needs to be forward leaning," he said, explaining that Taiwan needs to not only keep up with global trends but also be proactive in recognising global developments early and taking timely action to benefit from them such as investing in new technologies and services. He recommended that the government lead by example and cooperate with Europeans to bring cutting-edge technology to Taiwan. Taking as examples the Asia Silicon Valley and the Internet of Things from the government's so-called 5 + 2 emerging industries, he said that these areas would be boosted if the government were to adopt the latest technologies in its own operations. In so doing this would not only support the companies offering these solutions and produce a virtuous cycle that would spur greater uptake in the private sector, but would also upgrade government services, improve efficiency and help meet goals to lower carbon emissions.
The chairman went on to welcome the government's sincere effort to attract foreign professionals to Taiwan by drafting the "Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professional Talent". He noted that should the act pass in its current form, many of the issues facing foreign professionals living and working in Taiwan would be resolved. He went on to say that he hoped that this excellent initiative could be built upon to address other issues affecting the labour market, including recent changes to the labour law that limit the number of consecutive working days and working hours of employees. He noted that the changes have created difficulties and went against the wishes of both employers and employees. He said that he hoped that the government would consider all views on this subject and apply a reasonable degree of flexibility to labour laws that would benefit both employers and employees.
The chairman went on to praise the government's renewable energy goals and the ambition to reduce Taiwan's CO2 emissions and clean the air, saying that ECCT members fully supported these objectives. He noted that European companies have the most advanced technology and solutions to help Taiwan to increase renewable energy capacity, energy efficiency in industry, buildings and transportation and thereby make rapid progress towards meeting and even exceeding the government's targets. He added 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 and are committed to helping Taiwan to evolve as a manufacturing and support hub for wind energy in Asia. He went on to point out that progress requires first addressing the major hurdles which are a lack of financing, the need for construction of supporting infrastructure such as electricity grids and harbours and the overly complicated permitting process.
The chairman went on to reiterate the ECCT's call to expedite the signing of a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) with the European Union. "In an era when there are growing movements against globalisation, we welcome your commitment to remain open and to seek further international cooperation," he said. He went on to point out the fact that the European Union is the world's largest economy but still only Taiwan's fourth largest trading partner. This, he said indicates that EU-Taiwan trade and investment has tremendous potential to generate much more economic growth and create more jobs in both Europe and Taiwan.
The chairman concluded that a strong economy is in everyone's interests and that by pooling resources and working together, it is possible to achieve truly lasting economic momentum.
In her speech, EETO Head Madeleine Majorenko made the point that Europe today is not only peaceful, but it is also world's largest single market and the world's biggest trading block, with trade agreements in place or under negotiations with over 140 partners around the globe. She added that Europe is also the world's largest provider of development assistance and at the cutting edge of innovation. She also highlighted the fact that the European economy is in its fifth year of recovery and remains open for business. She made the point that Europeans stand for free and progressive trade and for an inclusive and rules based globalisation process. "We believe that there is no protection in protectionism, but indeed there is isolation in isolationism. History shows us that protectionism and isolation never had lasting success and has often led to disastrous outcome," she said. She backed this up by pointing out that in an increasingly interconnected world, with highly integrated global value chains, international competition, global climate action, scientific cooperation and exchange of ideas are stimulating creativity and accelerate innovation, fostering economic growth and creating jobs. For this reason she said that the EU, like the ECCT, welcomes the government's policies that place emphasis on investing in new technologies and services through the development innovative industries and the forward-looking infrastructure projects, on expediting the deployment of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency, on actions towards a circular economy and making Taiwan's business and investment environment more attractive. On the subject of the BIA, the EETO head that the EU shares the ECCT's commitment to achieving a win-win agreement for both sides. In order to make progress she emphasised the need for good progress in the resolution of trade irritants and good preparation.
In her speech President Tsai echoed the sentiments expressed by Chairman Cervell, saying that the past year had been a year of economic rebound as well as one of reform. She thanked European business for their contribution to Taiwan's recovery. She stressed that Taiwan must transform its economic structures, upgrade industry and make the economy more innovative and inclusive. She went on to highlight some of the government's priority areas, including the NT$880 billion dollars to be spent on the Forward-looking infrastructure development programme to upgrade Taiwan's digital, water, green energy, rail transport and urban renewal infrastructure. She also mentioned new regulatory changes to attract talent, enhance protect intellectual property rights and improve business regulatory procedures, aimed at making Taiwan a better place to do business.
On the subject of renewable energy President Tsai referred to the ECCT's 2017 Position Papers which stated that the ideal conditions are in place for a renewable energy with the exception of a better regulatory environment and market conditions. She noted that the government has taken action by making changes to the Electricity Act and upgrading ports for offshore wind. On the subject of smart industry, she said that the government is ready to intensify cooperation with Europe in the areas of Industry 4.0, agriculture and other areas where experience and capabilities are complementary. She added that she hoped that European firms would partner with their Taiwanese counterparts to explore business in South East Asia. On the subject of the BIA, President Tsai said that such an agreement is important to Taiwan and that she hoped that preparations would soon be completed so that practical negotiations could begin. She concluded that she is aware that for peace and stability to endure, we need to build a sustainable economy, high quality jobs for workers and better lives for all. "Taiwan is fully committed to working with Europe and the European business community to bring about such an economic future," she said.
The Europe Day dinner was an opportunity to enjoy some superb entertainment and cuisine. The dinner also served as a fund-raising event for charity. During the evening, ECCT Chairman Håkan Cervell 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 19 years.