From her base in Washington, D.C., Xiaobing Feng, regional manager for Asia of The Advocacy Center under the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, recently spent several weeks in Taiwan looking at opportunities for increased participation by American companies in Taiwan’s government procurement. In 2014, U.S. companies won 179 contracts worth US$276 million out of a total of 417 contracts (valued at US$1.1 billion) awarded to foreign firms.
At a meeting attended by both AmCham Taipei member companies and local suppliers, Feng encouraged businesses to avail themselves of The Advocacy Center’s services by contacting the American Institute in Taiwan’s Commercial Section when competing for government procurement. Although established in 1992, the Center has become more active in recent years as the Obama Administration has stepped up efforts to promote American business overseas.
The Center defines its role as “coordinating U.S. government resources and authority in order to level the playing field on behalf of U.S. business interests as they compete against foreign firms for specific international public contracts, both civilian and defense sales.” When more than one U.S. company is bidding, it will make a general case for the quality and reliability of American products and services, aside from seeking to ensure the fairness of the tender process. In addition, the Center stations a senior officer at four multilateral development banks around the world to support U.S. firms in competing for tenders for bank-related projects.
Involvement by the Center is not limited to cases of procurement by foreign government agencies or state-owned enterprises. It can also become engaged when a foreign government has a substantial connection with the tendering organization, such as a major minority shareholding or control over seats on the board.
Companies do not have to be American-owned to be eligible for the service. More important is the amount of economic benefit the United States will gain, for example through the export of U.S. products and services, licensing of technology, and the creation of American jobs. But all companies using the service, as well as their subcontractors, agents, and other partners, must pledge to abide by U.S. anti-bribery laws.
Since 2007 Taiwan has been a member of the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement, of which the United States is a founding member. The purpose of the agreement is to assure companies from member countries of non-discriminatory access to government procurement in other member countries’ markets.