ECCT urges Taiwan to open market

Nov 04, 2003 Ι Industry In-Focus Ι Furniture Ι By Ben, CENS
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Taipei, Nov. 4, 2003 (CENS)--At a regular meeting held in Taipei yesterday, the European Council of Commerce and Trade (ECCT) issued a white paper, calling for Taiwan to comply with the norms of and commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and take actions to facilitate trade across the Taiwan Strait.

The meeting was presided over by ECCT chairman Dirk Sanger, with participants including Hu Sheng-cheng, minister without portfolio of the Executive Yuan. Hu attended the meeting to answer questions raised by the European enterprises operating in Taiwan.

At the meeting, ECCT complained that the Taiwan government has failed to fully protect intellectual property rights (IPRs) and hasn't yet signed the government procurement agreement (GPA). The council threatened to ask the European Union to force Taiwan to open market through bilateral consultations.

With counterfeited European brands prevailing in Taiwan, ECCT is questioning Taiwan government's determination to protect the IPRs. The council said it would list IPR as an important issue in the prospective business and trade talks between Taiwan and the European Union.

ECCT said mainland China has become a world production center with constant increase in air and marine transportation. Taiwan's restrictions on the transportation links with the mainland will undermine the island's future development. If Taiwan doesn't scrap the restrictions, it will face a reduction in port transportation amount and lose its international competitiveness. In order to develop itself into a global logistics hub, Taiwan has to launch direct air and marine transportation links with the mainland so as to attract foreign firms to operate in Taiwan, said ECCT.

Jeffrey Watkins, representative to the ECCT's WTO panel, complained the Taiwan government still bans imports of some commodities made in the mainland, hasn't yet signed GPA, and restricts entry of the mainland Chinese employees of foreign firms.

ECCT complained that the unique bidding system and terms implemented in Taiwan won't attract foreign firms to supply high-quality products at reasonable prices.

Huang Tai-fen, head of the ECCT's project and procurement panel, said although Taiwan has failed to sign GPA before January this year as scheduled, it can comply with the spirit of the GPA to liberalize the government procurement market. She complained many government agencies open domestic bids to protect domestic firms because of lax regulations on government procurement bidding processes.

She emphasized Taiwan didn't give foreign firms the chance to contract civil engineering projects. What foreign firms can win is such sophisticated civil engineering projects as tunneling that Taiwanese firms have no ability to undertake.

In response to ECCT's complaints, Hu said the failure of foreign firms to win government procurement projects rests in the high price they offer, rather than their qualifications.

As the Taiwan government has introduced a five-year public infrastructure expansion project valued at NT$500 billion (US$14.7 billion at US$1:NT$34), Hu said the Taiwan government welcomes all foreign firms to join the bidding for the public construction projects, including the sub-projects as four lakes to replace the construction of dams, and the establishment of popular music centers in several colleges.
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