Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 11 News List

AmCham gettig down to business

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei has been representing the interests of Americans doing business here for the past 51 years. Last year saw membership numbers drop from over 1,000 to around 800. `Taipei Times' staff reporter Bill Heaney sat down with new president Andrea Wu to discuss the plans she has made to inject new vigor into the organization since her election in December

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TT: IPR is still your major concern, and you have often been a harsh critic of Taiwan's performance in this area for many years. How much does IPR infringement in Taiwan cost your members? And do you accept the government's claims that it is finally winning the war against counterfeiters of music, movie and video disks for example?

Wu: In the area of IPR, we have seen a lot of improvement. We do not have a figure to hand telling us how much our members are spending or what expenses are generated by this, but I do know executives who constantly tell me they have to spend a lot of time and hire lawyers to be in court just to fight against IPR infringement.

We admit we've been harsh, but that's when it's been warranted, but we also give credit where it's due and the recent changes to the Copyright Law were very welcome. That tells us that when you have the political will, you can change a lot of systems and stop a lot of misbehavior.

In our recent monthly Topics magazine we wrote an article applauding the government's efforts.

However, no one will die from pirated DVDs or CDs, so pharmaceuticals and counterfeit drugs are a threat to public health and that is an area where the government will have to act.

TT: Do you think Taiwan has a chance to be removed from the Special 301 Priority Watch List this year?

Wu: That is really up to the US government to review. We are not in any position to make any recommendation. The government will read our publications, but that's a resource anyone can tap into.

TT: Do you support a free-trade agreement between Taiwan and the US and what advantages will it bring to your members?

Wu: The American chamber's position has been that the discussions are still premature, because to our knowledge the US government agencies are still far from satisfied with the kind of co-operation they are getting from Taiwan on long-standing issues such as government procurement policies, pharmaceutical industries -- IPR was weighed heavily here, also WTO implementation in areas such as rice imports. Until more progress can be shown in those areas we don't feel there's much point in starting complicated negotiations to try and set up a free-trade agreement between Taiwan and the US.

TT: Do you feel the president's referendum plan has hurt your members' interests or do you support his right to call what is in effect a democratic vote?

Wu: The American chamber does not take any position on political issues.

TT: What are your plans for 2004?

Wu: We are reviewing our committee structure in light of the changing environment and membership profile. We want to recruit more members, so we have a new recruitment plan. The chamber has to be more relevant.

This year we want to enrich our program with more information or business events, or even social activities.

We want to add more variety to our programs to attract different crowds. We also want to reach out to various organizations in the community.

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