The European Bank for Recon-struction and Development (EBRD) opened a branch office in Taipei yesterday, hoping to direct more Taiwanese investment to central and Eastern Europe with its first Asian branch.
The EBRD was established in 1991 after communism collapsed in central and Eastern Europe by ex-Soviet states to promote private and entrepreneurial initiatives. It is now the largest single investor in central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
As of the end of last year, the EBRD had funded more than 300 billion euros (US$238.47 billion) of investment in 1,301 regional projects, according to a press release.
"This is an important step to extending our business reach in Taiwan," Varel Freeman, first vice president of the EBRD, told reporters after the inauguration ceremony of the "Taiwan Office for EBRD Business Development."
"We look forward to cooperating with Taiwanese companies," Freeman said.
Taiwan is notable for its vibrant small and medium-sized enterprises which have remarkable experience in exports and in developing new markets, Freeman said.
Finance, technology, service, infrastructure and agriculture are all areas in which Taiwanese companies could find business opportunities in Russia, central and Eastern Europe and East Asia as their economies are growing rapidly, he added.
The EBRD will help companies to identify suitable local partners and provide technical assistance and loans to the companies to share business risks and strengthen their ability to reach the markets in the region, Freeman said.
Participation in the loan scheme comes under the umbrella of EBRD, which ensures the quality of company credit and can be exempted from withholding tax, he said.
Freeman said he had talked to a number of local companies interested in investing in the former Soviet-bloc, but refused to name them. The Taipei branch office had not set absolute goals for its business here, he said.
While media reports indicated that Beijing opposed the EBRD's move in opening its first Asian branch office in Taiwan, Freeman denied the reports.
Taiwan is not an official donor country, but it has contributed funds and know-how to many EBRD projects in the past.
Taiwan set up the Taipei China-European Bank Cooperation Fund with the EBRD in 1991, to which Taiwan donated US$10 million, and another donation of US$5 million in 1998, according to a press release.
The government and the regional banking institution have also co-organized several seminars on investment opportunities in Taiwan over the past four years, it said.
EBRD Vice President Fabrizio Saccomanni visited Taipei last November to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning the opening of the EBRD Taipei office.
By helping local companies to invest in the fast-growing region of Europe, the ministry hopes to reduce Taiwan's economic reliance on the Chinese market.