Taiwan's concentration of high-tech industries and quality human resources make the nation competitive and appealing to foreign investors, despite the fact that China has emerged to take the lion's share in the sector, chief executives of multinational companies said yesterday.
"Clearly, Taiwan has built a strong base of human capital. Combined with the nation's financial capital it is one of the crucial keys driving the high-tech sector," said Richard Hill, chairman and chief executive officer for Novellus Systems Inc, a California-based semiconductor upstream supplier, at the first summit of the Taiwan Business Alliance Conference.
While many Taiwanese manu-facturers are building and expanding factories in China to take advantage of the lower wage and land costs, Taiwan's advantage lies in its high-tech talents and clustering of global players, Roger Seager, vice president for GE Aircraft Engines' sales division, said at the meeting.
GE views Taiwan as a springboard to enter the massive Chinese market, Seager said, urging cooperation on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
NEC Corp, Japan's biggest maker of telecommunications equipment, suggested that Taiwan develop knowledge-based industries based on its unique scheme of vertical specialization between design and foundry businesses.
"It is inevitable that labor-intensive industries will gradually move to China because of its low-cost labor," said NEC's chairman of the board, Hajime Sasaki.
Despite big business' optimism about Taiwan's economy, Lam Research Corp chief executive officer James Bagley urged the government to open direct cross-strait traffic.
Local and foreign business groups such as Lam Research, a supplier of wafer fabrication equipment based in California which established its Taiwan branch in 1993, have long expressed concern about the cross-strait transport links issue.
"It's going to be hard for Tai-wanese businessmen to manage the semiconductor industry if they can't easily get into China," Bagley said. "It will be to Taiwan's benefit [if a direct link is opened]."
In response, Minster of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) said the government is actively working on the project to facilitate cross-strait trading activities in view of the increasing investment and trading between China and Taiwan.
Panelists attending yesterday's forum painted a bright picture of the world's semiconductor industry for the upcoming quarters.
"The overall environment is better, and thus I believe the sector will grow at least 20 percent in 2004," Sasaki said.
This will no doubt benefit Taiwan, as the nation is home to the world's largest manufacturers of custom-made computer chips -- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) and United Microelectronics Corp (聯電).
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