Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Conference to go on despite SARS

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ministry of Economic Affairs officials said yesterday that an international investment conference set for October will proceed despite reports that several firms may have declined invitations to attend.

A Chinese-language newspaper reported yesterday that several multinational corporations including Dell Computer, DuPont, Applied Materials and Sony Corp had refused to attend the conference because of the SARS outbreak here.

"I don't agree with the report," said Angela Chu (瞿大文), director general of ministry's Industrial Development & Investment Center (IDIC), which is organizing the conference.

"The conference is in October, which is still a long away, and by then SARS should be under control," Chu said. She refused to elaborate further.

But a source at the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that companies were turning down invitations to attend, but not because of the SARS outbreak.

"Companies refusing to attend did so because of tight scheduling," the official said. "Many of the invitees are business tycoons and industry professionals from various international corporations, whose agendas were already fixed a year ago."

The conference, entitled the "2003 Taiwan Business Alliance Conference," is slated to be held at the Taipei International Convention Center from Oct. 19 to Oct. 22.

CEOs from more than 600 multinational corporations and local business heavyweights from various industries have been invited to the four-day event.

The conference, an idea that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) came up with after a financial summit last November, was designed to increase foreign investment and boost the economy.

Attracting foreign investment is a policy priority, Chen said in a DPP meeting in January.

Sony Taiwan Ltd agreed that scheduling was a problem.

"Our CEO, Mr. Nobuyuki Idei, can't make it because his schedule is full during that period -- not because of SARS fears," Sony senior manager Sophie Tsai (蔡宜凌), said yesterday.

Tsai said Sony will send a replacement to participate in the conference if the ministry invites another Sony official.

Dell Computer branches in Taiwan and in Singapore declined to comment on the issue.

The ministry refused to confirm the number of participants. A final list of participants would be revealed at start of the conference to avoid creating trouble for these companies' branches in China, Chu said.

Foreign investment in Taiwan amounted US$3.27 billion last year, a decline of 36 percent from a year earlier, and US$600.15 million in the first quarter of this year, down 20.78 percent from the previous year, according to the ministry's statistics.

"Increasing foreign investment is a consistent government policy, and we'll try our best to carry out the mission," Chu said.

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