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ECCT calls for Europe and Taiwan to build on core strengths

Taipei, 14 May - The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT) today called for greater cooperation between Europe and Taiwan to build on core strengths and thereby boost economic prosperity in Taiwan and Europe. 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 "Europe and Taiwan: Building on Core Strengths". 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 650 distinguished guests including President Ma Ying-jeou, Frederic Laplanche, 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 Ma, EETO Head Laplanche and ECCT Chairman Bernd Barkey.

In his speech at the dinner ECCT Chairman Bernd Barkey noted that Taiwan has witnessed remarkable economic and social progress in recent years and built a solid foundation for future prosperity. He highlighted the successful weathering of the 2008 global financial crisis, joining the World Trade Organisation's Government Procurement Agreement, lowering the corporate tax rate to 17%, progress in cross-Strait relations, the granting of visa-free status to ROC passport holders with the European Union and increasing trade in goods, services and investments between the EU and Taiwan.

Chairman Barkey went on to praise the government's efforts to tackle issues important to ECCT members, pointing out that around 20% of the issues facing ECCT members are resolved every year and that incremental progress towards adopting international standards and practices over a number of years adds up to substantial progress. "Every issue resolved helps to build a better regulatory environment and improve Taiwan's competitiveness," he said.

The chairman's speech highlighted some of Taiwan's core strengths: Taiwan has become a dynamic player in the global economy with good transport and communications infrastructure, a relatively consistent legal system, a stable government, a highly skilled workforce, reputable academic institutions and a functioning universal healthcare system. If these core strengths could be taken advantage of and built upon he said that he believed much more could be achieved, especially if Europe and Taiwan work together. He went on to point out that while most ECCT members have headquarters in Europe, the distinction between what is a European, international or Taiwanese company is no longer such an important one given that European companies are registered as legal entities in Taiwan, pay the same taxes as Taiwanese companies while most of their revenues are spent on their operating costs in Taiwan or reinvested in Taiwan. "All of this activity creates a virtuous circle of generating economic growth and moving Taiwan further up the value chain. This benefits Taiwan much more than our European headquarters," he remarked.

Barkey stated that if the right actions are taken, he is optimistic about Taiwan's future. Referring to the ECCT's 2015 Position Papers, he said that Taiwan has the potential to become a showcase for smart, low carbon cities, a healthcare innovation hub, a regional financial centre and a renewable energy showcase if the best technologies and solutions are adopted. However, to achieve the best results requires the right regulatory environment, pragmatic policies and cooperation between all stakeholders, he said.

Citing the ECCT Low Carbon Initiative's report on industrial energy efficiency in Taiwan released in March this year, the chairman said that much more could be done to improve energy efficiency in Taiwan's industrial sector. In addition, Taiwan could be much more proactive in making the building sector more energy efficient and promoting renewable energy. Moreover, as services become increasingly important to the economy, improving the skills and competitiveness of Taiwan's service industry is vital to Taiwan's future economic prosperity. "Our members in the IT, financial, healthcare, retail, logistics and other service industries have the skills and capital to help develop Taiwan into an even more advanced provider of a full range of services," he pointed out.

The chairman concluded his speech by making the point that while Taiwan has made great progress towards the further internationalisation of Taiwan's regulatory system in recent years, given the fact that the world is constantly changing, to meet the needs of societies in the 21st century, Taiwan needs a regulatory system that is not only international but also smart. Extrapolating on this point, he expressed the view that a smart regulatory system starts with strict regulations to safeguard health and safety, followed up with practical compliance and enforcement procedures that do not overly burden the resources of government or businesses. He said that the ECCT would assist the government by continuing to share information and best practices aimed at creating a safe, advanced and competitive environment for all goods and services in Taiwan similar to the one practiced in Europe, which is a combination of strict health and safety standards, practical and effective quality control and monitoring systems and self-regulation on the part of the industry.

About the ECCT
With over US$33 billion in direct foreign investments, European business remains the largest group of foreign investors in Taiwan. The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan is the only foreign nationwide business chamber in Taiwan and the principal organisation promoting European business interests in Taiwan. The chamber represents over 800 members from around 400 companies and organisations. Through a network of 28 industry and support committees, the ECCT has been successful in addressing specific concerns and providing concrete recommendations to all levels of government to facilitate improving the business environment. The ECCT annually publishes a series of position papers that comprise issues identified by its committees as hindering the further development of their respective industries and provide recommendations to the government of Taiwan for improvement of the business environment on general issues as well as industry-specific problems. They also serve to keep the European Commission, the European Parliament as well as the governments of individual European Union member states informed about Taiwan's business environment.