ECCT hits milestone, membership at record high

TAICHUNG, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

Following several years of strong and steady growth, the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT) has topped 300 corporate members, representing some 500 individual members for the first time. ECCT CEO Guy Wittich attributed the milestone, which marks a 50 percent increase over the past two years, to the chamber’s growing reputation for lobbying and networking.

“People are joining us not only because they want to provide input on improving Taiwan’s business environment, but also to meet their rivals and to find new clients,” Wittich said. Wittich said the chamber’s 24 industry committees, covering sectors such as retail, banking, pharmaceuticals, and environmental protection, play a critical role by keeping members updated on industry developments.

“The committees represent the front line of business in Taiwan. Members can trade war stories and raise issues facing their industries, which we can then help to solve,” Wittich noted. Since the ECCT has more committees than any other foreign chamber in Taiwan, it is the only organization addressing some issues.

“We are the only one in Taipei covering the retail, luxury goods, and automobile sectors,” he said.

The committees are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with the Automotive Committee planning to hire its own staff member to help with the lobbying effort.

“This will be a first in Taiwan and will help push the issues farther and faster,” he said. He stressed that in addition to visiting officials such as Premier Yu Hsyi-kun and Economics Minister Ho Mei-yueh, the committee members regularly engage the government at a working level.

In May, for example, a working group was established between the chamber’s Retail Committee and five Taipei City government departments to deal with retail issues, including land-zoning.

Similarly, the chamber’s Automotive Committee has been closely cooperating with the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection (BSMI) on issues such as pollution control and safety testing rules for vehicle importers.

“From government procurement to human resources issues, the chamber has been actively and regularly working with the government on practical solutions, and this has gotten a seal of approval from our members,” said Wittich. But government access is only half the story. The chamber is on track to put on more than 160 events this year and this means ample networking opportunities for members.

In addition to its traditional committee meetings and its monthly luncheons with guest speakers ranging from Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou to Far Eastern Chairman Douglas Hsu, the ECCT recently held its Europe Day Dinner, with President Chen Shui-bian being the special guest among the 500 government and business leaders in attendance. And the chamber will show a lighter side with its annual Gala Ball in September. This year’s theme is “Saturday Night Fever.” “It’s not all work and no play. But even when we do let our hair down, it’s still in the interest of building our community,” said Wittich, adding that the ECCT’s public profile has grown this year due to its support of some new events.

For example, the chamber co-organized EuroFest, an all-day food and music event in May, to support the Taipei European School’s building fund.

“EuroFest was a major success, attracting more than 3,500 people and raising consciousness of both the European chamber and school,” Wittich said.

He also pointed to the ECCT-ICRT International Charity Cup, a golf tournament co-organized in the spring that raised over NT$500,000 for the Community Services Center. “We are becoming more diversified,” explained Wittich. “We have boosted our lobbying efforts and increased the quality and number of events for members, but at the same time we are increasingly connecting ourselves to the community.”