Taiwan Business in Brief: September 2016

Hundreds of taxis surround the Executive Yuan to protest Uber's continued presence in the Taiwan market.
Hundreds of taxis surround the Executive Yuan to protest Uber's continued presence in the Taiwan market.

Uber faces ban and taxes in Taiwan

Uber, a U.S. company founded in 2009 and now operating in more than 500 cities worldwide, faces tough going in Taiwan. In early August, the authorities threatened to remove Uber’s license as it was registered as a software company and not a taxi service. Some individual Uber drivers had their drivers’ licenses suspended and all could be subject to NT$50,000 (US$1,575) fines if caught operating as a taxi. The main issues concern whether passengers are properly protected by insurance when riding in an Uber vehicle and whether the company’s earnings in Taiwan are taxable. The government considers that Uber should pay massive back taxes of NT$200 million (US$6.3 million), whereas the company asserts that it does not owe any outstanding taxes under applicable laws.

Former Economics Minister John Deng becomes a Minister without Portfolio
Former Economics Minister John Deng becomes a Minister without Portfolio

Former MOEA minister appointed to new post

Former Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng was named Minister without Portfolio on August 9, and is expected to play a key role in shaping Taiwan’s trade policies. Deng headed the economics ministry from December 2014 until the Ma administration left office in May. Among his previous governmental positions were deputy chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, deputy representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), deputy representative to the United States, chief representative of the Office of Trade Negotiations, and deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council. It is believed that one of Deng’s biggest responsibilities will be to work toward gaining entrance for Taiwan into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.

Deal reached with toll collectors

A settlement was finally reached on August 17 for the financial compensation of some 183 laid-off freeway toll workers, with the government and the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co. (FETC) agreeing to compensate the remaining holdouts from previous settlements with a total of some NT$10,000 monthly for the next five years. The conflict arose from the 2013 implementation of the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system, spelling the end of toll booths and the need for workers to man them. A majority of the 947 employees whose jobs were terminated accepted five-month severance pay or a new job with the Far Eastern group. But the remaining laid-off toll collectors complained of a poorly executed compensation process and took to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction, with protests that included the blocking of sections of the freeways.

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