Tue, Nov 02, 2004 - Page 10 News List

China key to Taiwan: Europeans

TRADE ISSUES The ECCT called for the relaxation of restrictions on Chinese imports and the lifting of bans on some European goods made in China

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will have to face the hard fact that the road to internationalization is through China, Dirk Saenger, chairman of European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT), said yesterday after the release of the chamber's 2004-2005 Position Papers.

The chamber's call for the government's immediate relaxation of restrictions against certain Chinese imports yesterday is just one of several requests by the foreign business community for cross-strait business normalization, including the direct three links.

"Taiwan must deal with both the threats and opportunities therein so as to maximize its benefits," Saenger said. "The chances to benefit can only be harvested if challenges are seen as opportunities."

Currently, Taiwan maintains a list of around 2,600 importable items from China, ranging from handsets to waffles that are either prohibited or restricted, according to the chamber's position papers.

The chamber yesterday also called on immediate lifting of a ban on import of some 200 European products manufactured in China, and the lifting of restrictions for small and medium-sized multinationals to transfer their Chinese staff from China to Taiwan.

The ECCT said it has addressed the issue many times with related government agencies, such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs, but has seen no substantial progress so far.

"Which is annoying," said Helmut Bolt, co-chairman of the ECCT's automotive committee.

"Both Taiwan and China are members of WTO which implies national treatment and non-discrimination ... [Taiwan's restrictions] are violating WTO regulations," Bolt said.

Bolt also serves as Dusseldorf-headquartered ThyssenKrupp AG's chief representative in Taiwan, which runs steel, capital goods and services business here.

Guy Wittich, chief executive officer of the ECCT, said Taiwan does not need protectionism to secure economic development and should find early solutions to the long problem that has been hurting the growth of European business in Taiwan.

Another long-time headache that foreign businesses highlight is full access for international firms to government procurement projects. The problem has been listed on the chamber's annual review year after year, and foreign companies appear to have run out of patience on the issue.

Foreign construction firms, for example, were excluded from bidding for Taiwan Power Co's (台電) construction projects for electricity transmission pipelines and substation renewal, which could have meant a total of half billion Euros of business, said Geoffrey Spencer, co-chairman of the ECCT's project and procurement committee and vice president of Siemens Ltd's power generation business.

The government cannot enjoy quality and cost benefits if it does not open up procurement projects to international bidding, and this usually means that higher expenditures are borne by taxpayers, Spencer said.

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