ECCT's 2015 Position Papers offer visions to shape Taiwan's future, building on core strengths
Taipei, 25 November –The 2015 Position Papers were officially released today by the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT). A copy of the chamber's annual publication was officially handed over to the Taiwan government's National Development Council at an ECCT Premium Event Lunch held today. A summary of the main theme and overview were presented at the event by ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo. The theme of this year's papers is "Shaping Taiwan's Future: Building on Core Strengths". The papers call on the government to use Taiwan's considerable strengths effectively to build a better and brighter future for Taiwan. This year's papers include separate submissions from 23 of the ECCT's 28 industry and support committees and raise 116 issues, 64 that were unresolved from previous years and 52 new issues.
The overview of the publication notes that a solid foundation for future prosperity has been built in Taiwan. However, given Taiwan's many advantages, much greater things could be achieved and Taiwan has the potential to become a global leader and an example to the world in a lot more than the niche sectors where it is already a leader. The overview outlines the main building blocks already in place but note that what is still somewhat lacking is ambition, vision, confidence and determination. It concludes that the people of Taiwan have earned the right to be much more ambitious and it is time to set and realize greater ambitions.
Building blocks are in place
The overview describes how Taiwan remarkable economic and social progress over the past six decades has created ideal conditions for future development. Taiwan's GDP has risen 280-fold to US$484 billion and the people of Taiwan have built a modern transport and telecommunications infrastructure. They have developed an open and democratic society with strong civic institutions and a stable government. In addition, they have established a relatively consistent legal system and a highly skilled workforce, with very little industrial unrest and low staff turnover. Taiwan's national healthcare system provides affordable universal healthcare to all of Taiwan's legal residents, both domestic and foreign. The quality of life in Taiwan is also good in terms of air quality and ease of getting around (good public transport and traffic), affordability and a wide variety of entertainment and leisure activities. In addition, Taiwan has exceptionally broad and deep entrepreneurial strength with a multitude of small and medium-sized enterprises across multiple industry sectors as well as a number of large and globally-significant corporations. An additional factor in Taiwan's favour is that Taiwan's average manufacturing costs have been kept in check over the past two decades while traditional "low cost regions" have seen sharp increases. As a result, Taiwan's average manufacturing costs are now very competitive both on a global and a regional basis. In addition, Taiwan has an ideal geographical location in the Asia Pacific region, making the island a gateway to the large and expanding market in Asia.
All of the factors mentioned above have made Taiwan an important and dynamic player in the global economy and a good place to live and do business. The basic building blocks are in place. What needs to be done now is to use these building blocks to shape an even brighter and more prosperous future.
Visions for Taiwan's future
The position paper overview identifies several examples of what Taiwan is capable of achieving if the right actions are taken:
Smart City Pioneer
Taiwan has the potential to become a showcase for smart, low carbon cities if the most advanced solutions are implemented to improve energy efficiency, connectivity and transportation infrastructure. There is great potential to make Taiwan's buildings much smarter and more energy efficient if the right actions are taken. In addition, more could be done to make transportation greener and more sustainable.
To realize the vision of a smart city pioneer the following actions are recommended: Implement stricter building codes, promote green building technology, promote smart metering and building system integration, utilize the most advantageous bids for all government building projects, set ambitious e-mobility targets and build electric mobility infrastructure.
Healthcare Innovation Hub
Taiwan ranks high in terms of the quality of science and research given a number of world-class institutions and universities and a large pool of highly qualified and talented people. Taiwan has succeeded in establishing a comprehensive healthcare system that provides a high level of healthcare coverage to its citizens. Taiwan is also an ideal location for conducting clinical drug trials and offering medical tourism. Taiwan's model is attractive but also faces specific challenges related to the burden on the health care budget. With a rapidly-aging population and increased demand, the current system will not be sustainable.
To realize the vision of a healthcare innovation hub the following actions are recommended: Develop a plan to separate dispensing from prescribing (SDP) medicines, Decrease time to approval and access to innovative medicines and introduce co-pay and rebalance the patient flow from hospitals to General Practitioners.
Regional Financial Centre
The government has made significant efforts to introduce reforms governing financial services over the past two years to improve Taiwan competitiveness across various actors in the financial sector (especially banks, insurance companies and securities firms) but much needs to be done to compete with the Hong Kong and Singapore financial centres. Taiwan has a stable government and legal system, well-developed, sophisticated and liquid financial markets, a strong wealth management investor base and a broad range of competitive players. However, to realize the vision of becoming a regional financial centre, a number of reforms are needed to make the regulatory environment governing financial services competitive versus regional rivals, especially Hong Kong and Singapore.
To realize the vision of a regional financial centre the following actions are recommended: Widen the scope of products available to investors, loosen restrictions on professional investors and relax restrictions on investments in China.
Renewable Energy Showcase
In October 2014 European Union leaders agreed to cut CO2 emissions to 40% below 1990 levels and to increase the use of renewable energy to 27% of the total energy mix by 2030. By contrast, Taiwan's targets lack ambition. Taiwan is an ideal location for renewable energy, particularly wind and solar energy, given abundant sunshine (almost all year round) and strong winds (particularly along the coast). Taiwan is also a major producer of photovoltaic (PV) panels although most production is designated for export, rather than used at home. This means that the building blocks to become a major producer and consumer of renewable energy are in place. They just need to be taken advantage of. Doing so would not only reduce Taiwan's dependence on fossil fuels. It would also increase Taiwan's energy security and boost Taiwan's image in the international community.
To realize the vision of a renewable energy showcase the following actions are recommended: Liberalise the electricity market, set ambitious renewable energy targets, set reasonable prices for renewable energy, allow public participation in renewable energy projects and make connecting to the grid simple.
Additional recommended actions to shape Taiwan's future
Besides setting out examples of visions for Taiwan's future, the overview also makes recommendations to the government on practical actions to take to attract investment, boost the economy and help to realize Taiwan's potential: Make doing business easier by following the examples set by the top-ranked countries in the World Bank's Doing Business survey, adopt international standards and practices, lift the import ban on products made in China and pursue a free trade deal or similar agreement with the European Union.
The overview concludes that Taiwan remains a dynamic player in the global economy, has good transport and communications infrastructure, a relatively consistent legal system, a stable government, a highly skilled and stable workforce, reputable academic institutions and a functioning universal healthcare system. Compared to some of its regional competitors, the quality of life in Taiwan is also good in terms of air quality, public transport and traffic and a wide variety of entertainment and leisure activities. These factors constitute the building blocks to create an even more advanced and prosperous society. Utilising these factors to their full extent could unleash Taiwan's full potential while adopting the recommendations made in the 2015 Position Papers would make a positive contribution to the development of the economy, help the government to address many long-term challenges and ultimately use Taiwan's already considerable strengths to shape an even more prosperous future.
Open Door Mission to Brussels
Besides presenting the position papers to the Taiwan government, the ECCT will also use the papers as the basis for briefing the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. To this end, an ECCT delegation comprising board directors, committee chairs and staff will visit Brussels in mid-December for its annual "Open Door Mission", a series of meetings aimed at providing European officials with a comprehensive update on the current political, investment and regulatory environment in Taiwan.
About the ECCT and the annual position papers
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 principle organisation promoting European business interests in Taiwan. The chamber represents over 800 members from over 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's annual position papers 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.