Taiwan should invest more in Europe, as its trade competitors such as South Korea and China now invest more heavily in the area than Taiwan, the EU’s trade representative in Taiwan urged yesterday.
“There is a risk here that Taiwan could lose out in Europe due to the lack of presence as an investor,” said Frederic Laplanche, head of the European Economic and Trade Office, at a seminar aimed at promoting Taiwanese investment in the EU.
Citing European statistics, Laplanche said Taiwanese investment in the EU was less than 1 billion euros (US$1.32 billion) last year, while investment by China and South Korea reached 7 billion euros and 14 billion euros respectively.
Acknowledging that China is an important choice for Taiwanese businesses seeking overseas investment destinations, Laplanche warned that relying on only one strategic partner or market might not be a safe strategy.
“To have a truly global company, one must have substantial European presence and operation,” he said, adding that Europe is the world’s largest economy and has a consumer market of about 500 million people.
Council for Economic Planning and Development Deputy Minister San Gee (單驥), who also attended the seminar, said there was a lot of room for Taiwan to explore in the region.
San hoped that Taiwan and the EU could initiate negotiations on a bilateral trade pact to boost Taiwanese investment in Europe and further help Taiwanese investors set up footholds in the region.
An economic cooperation agreement (ECA) between Taiwan and Europe would not only eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers, but would also motivate Taiwanese investment and strengthen bilateral economic cooperation, he said.
In the period from 1952 to last year, 2,780 European companies’ planned investments in Taiwan reached US$30.2 billion, while Taiwan had 683 companies whose total planned investments in Europe reached only US$2.8 billion, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Terry Lee (李聰貴), deputy director-general of the ministry’s Department of Investment Services, said the EU’s inclusion of Taiwan in its visa waiver program in January last year could lead to an increase in Taiwanese investment in the region.
“Because of the visa-free treatment, more Taiwanese are willing to go to Europe, and thus are gaining a better understanding of the region,” Lee said at a press briefing.
Lee said some of the reasons why few Taiwan companies had invested in the world’s biggest economy include culture, language and lifestyle differences, as well as physical distance.
However, as Taiwanese learn more about Europe, they will be more willing to do business and invest there, he said.
“I’m very optimistic,” he said, adding that his ministry would make an effort to guide Taiwan-based companies toward investment in Europe.