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Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 14 News List

BTCO connects you with plenty of business opportunities from the UK

By Alice Wang

To celebrate the Queen's Birthday, the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) will launch a party on June 3 in Cathay Xin-Yi Trading Center, where the British Council just moved in last month, to mark the Queen's Birthday and the opening of British Council's new office.

The BTCO was set up in 1993 to promote the economic and cultural interests between UK and Taiwan. The incumbent Director General of the BTCO, Derek Marsh arrived in Taiwan in 2002. He was seconded to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1997 and took up the post of Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Seoul from 1997 to 2001. He described the biggest part of his job as meeting people by saying "I think the most important thing an overseas representative can do is to know more people, understand what problems they have, and offer the assistance they need. In my business, whom you know and how many people you know is very important when you want to solve things."

Mr. Marsh indicated that the main reason of having the Office here is to strengthen commercial relations between the UK and Taiwan, to help British companies to invest and to sell in Taiwan and to help Taiwan companies to do business in Britain. The BTCO certainly plays an important role in boosting trade exchanges and investment between our two countries.

The UK's investments in Taiwan

The trade and commercial exchanges between the UK and Taiwan have been active for many years. In 2003, British exports to Taiwan reached 904m pounds, an increase of 6% on 2002.

The staff in the Trade & Investment Section of BTCO help to develop the trading relationship between the UK and other countries. "Our objective is to help UK companies secure overseas sales and investments, and to attract high quality foreign direct investment to the UK," Mr. Marsh said. As more and more British investments enter Taiwan's market, there are already 300 British companies investing in Taiwan including HSBC, Tesco, B&Q, Body Shop stores, Boots, Lush and so on.

Benefits of investing in the UK

The UK is the most favoured inward investment location in Europe, attracting around 40 per cent of Japanese, US, Taiwan and Asian investment into the EU. The reasons for its popularity are many as it has a great deal to offer overseas companies.

The UK has 28 million skilled and adaptable workers and high standards of education with a strong emphasis on vocational education and training. Labour market regulations in the UK, including working hours, are among the most flexible in Europe, and staffing costs are highly competitive. The UK has strong science and technology base, with world-class design, research and development disciplines. Many UK universities and scientific institutes are taking part in collaborative research projects with businesses.

"The UK has attracted 70% of Taiwanese investment in Europe. However, with Taiwanese manufacturing being increasingly based in China, the UK is securing smaller investments in marketing, product design, R&D and European headquarters," Mr. Marsh said.

Currently, there are 150 to 200 Taiwanese companies which have chosen to set up or expand in the UK, such as DBTEL, D-Link, Evergreen Group, First Commercial Bank, Acer INC, Compal, BENQ, Teco group and so on.

When asked whether he thinks the new countries of the EU could affect foreign investment in Britain, Mr. Marsh showed no worry about it by saying "people think the new members of the EU may attract foreign investment with low labor cost, but actually, I don't worry about that. Selecting the best site for a business operation requires a balanced consideration of many factors, including languages, business environment and skills, utility costs, access to markets and quality of life issues. Labor cost, therefore, is only one component of the overall consideration."

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