Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Europeans to get slice of business

TRADE PARTNER Yu Shyi-kun looked to allay the concerns of European business groups, saying they will be given priority in upcoming government construction programs

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

European companies should be given first priority in some of the 10 major construction projects included in the NT$500 billion public construction budget, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday.

"The premier has been concerned about the complaints filed by the European Economic and Trade Office and European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei," a Cabinet official who asked not to be named told the Taipei Times.

In a bid to ease their concerns, the official said the premier has instructed government agencies to make efforts to let European companies participate in some of the 10 new construction projects, especially the creation of three artificial lakes and a cable-car project.

The artificial lakes are the 700-hectare Gi-Yung artificial lake in Kaohsiung County, the 800-hectare Yunlin Great Lake in Yunlin County and the Tainan Great Lake in Tainan County.

The Cabinet plans to carry out the projects under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) formula, in which private investors will be allowed to construct and operate the projects.

Once completed, the Yunlin Great Lake will be the nation's largest artificial lake.

The Ji-Yang artificial lake, which was renamed Kao-Ping Great Lake (高屏大湖) by Yu on Saturday, is an alternative to the construction of the Meinung Dam, which has been harshly criticized by environmentalists.

The controversy surrounding the Meinung Dam project has subsided since July 2000, when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) promised that the dam would not be built during his presidency.

Yu made the comments yesterday in response to the grievances aired on Oct. 1 by Brian McDonald, EU representative to Taipei and head of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei, when McDonald met with Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳).

In addition to complaining about Taiwan's record on intellectual property rights (IPR), McDonald raised the issues of the transparency and fairness of the bidding process for major infrastructure projects and the nation's implementation of WTO agreements since its accession to the organization in January last year.

Although McDonald later dismissed media reports that he had threatened to shut down the trade office if it continued to experience frustration over business opportunities, he confirmed that he did express his disappointment over the government's interfering in commercial deals. He singled out the high-profile engine deal of state-owned China Airlines and state-run Taiwan Power Co's power-generator contract.

US-based General Electric won the engine contract despite lobbying by Rolls-Royce of the UK.

Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries beat out General Electric to supply six generators for the Tatan power plant in northern Taiwan.

A close aide to Liu said yesterday that the government has put tremendous effort into cracking down on IPR infringements.

"The latest tallies made public by US customs showed that the value of confiscated pirated optical disks -- compact discs, DVDs and VCDs -- produced in Taiwan has declined from last year's US$1.08 million to US$320,000 this year," he said.

Taiwan's ranking on the list of the world's worst IPR violators has also improved, he said.

Regarding the government procurement mechanism, the official said that the bidding process is transparent and fair.

"One problem with European bidders is that they're not very flexible in their prices," the official said.

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