Member countries of the European Union (EU) are set to hold their first forum in Taipei to pitch investment opportunities directly to Taiwanese companies, with the top EU envoy encouraging local businesses to play an important role in Europe's post-pandemic economic development.
It is in the interest of Taiwanese businesses to increase their presence in Europe, especially at a time when global supply chains are being restructured due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Filip Grzegorzewski, the head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taiwan.
In an exclusive interview with CNA on Friday, Grzegorzewski said companies around the world have drawn lessons from the COVID-19 crisis.
"We have to rethink global supply chains and the resilience of operations," he said, adding that the EU does not want to be too dependent on one market or one source of raw materials.
Taiwan has the potential to become one of the EU's top partners, especially in the ICT, automobile, mobility, health and biotech sectors, which Taiwan champions, Grzegorzewski said.
In view of this, EETO will host the first ever EU Investment Forum (EIF) on Sept. 22 at the Taipei International Convention Center, with 15 EU member states participating, he said.
Participants will include all EU members that have a presence in Taiwan, he said, including Poland, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy and Slovakia.
The forum will use video links to connect investment agencies from those countries to potential investors in Taiwan, enabling them to interact on various topics, including business incentives, Grzegorzewski said, describing the forum as an important milestone to Taiwan-EU relations.
The EU is a single market with 450 million consumers and Taiwanese investors can benefit from the free flow of capital, goods, people and services within the regional bloc, not to mention the quality of life in Europe, he said.
According to EETO data, the EU was the biggest investor in Taiwan in 2019, accounting for about 25 percent of Taiwan's foreign direct investment. However, only 1.7 percent of Taiwanese investments abroad goes to the EU.
Considering Taiwan's economic strength, it has the potential to be a global presence and the European market presents untapped potential for it, Grzegorzewski said.
"We have 41 trade agreements across the globe that cover 72 countries. So, once you put an investment in Europe, you get access to not only the whole market of the EU, you can reach out to the rest of the world easily," he said.
Although it is easier for Taiwanese investors to go to Southeast Asia or China due to their geographical proximity, Grzegorzewski said investing in Europe is not particularly difficult and brings with it a lot of benefits.
"By getting closer to consumers, by getting access to a highly educated workforce, and by getting access to a market with the same standards, you cut costs," he said, adding that Taiwan does not have to rely on cheap labor in neighboring countries because Taiwan's industries are no longer labor-intensive.
Asked about the prospect of a trade agreement between the EU and Taiwan, Grzegorzewski said it will depend on the new trade strategy the EU is currently working on.
However, he added that the more momentum there is in economic relations between the EU and Taiwan, including business investments, the easier it will be for the two sides to move onto the next phase of negotiations on trade deals. (By Emerson Lim and Chen Yun-yu)