Aiming to Serve Foreign Investors

A revamped government organization stresses dedication to helping companies solve problems.

From early this year, the government agencies dealing with investment matters have been brought together under a new umbrella organization, InvesTaiwan, characterized by a logo featuring a stalk of grain, symbolizing the fertility of Taiwan’s business environment.

Three agencies of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) come under the InvesTaiwan aegis:

  • The Investment Commission, primarily responsible for overseeing the approval process for incoming foreign investment and applications by Taiwanese companies to invest abroad;
  • The Department of Investment Services (DOIS), which takes the lead in promoting Taiwan as an investment destination and assisting local companies investing in other countries, especially in South or Southeast Asia under Taiwan’s New Southbound Program.
  • The InvesTaiwan Service Center (ITSC), which stands ready to help existing or new foreign-invested companies resolve any problems they are facing.

The purpose of the reorganization was to enable the various agencies to better share resources in working toward the common goal of increasing the amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) entering Taiwan, as well as expanding Taiwanese companies’ role in the world market. For example, the big data collected by the Investment Commission – over the years it has approved over 40,000 cases of inward and more than 60,000 cases of outward investment – can be useful reference in investment promotion efforts, says Emile M.P. Chang, who multitasks as CEO of InvesTaiwan, Director-General of DOIS, and Executive Secretary of the Investment Commission.

The revamping is part of Premier Lai Ching-te’s campaign to attract more FDI to Taiwan. For the past year he has been presiding over twice-a-month interagency meetings designed to boost the investment flow in order to create employment and increase economic growth. “The Premier has instructed us to be more proactive,” says Chang – “not just waiting for investors to come to us for help but to actively go out to contact them and invite them to utilize our services.”

As a result, Chang and his colleagues have been reaching out to the foreign chambers of commerce and other organizations, as well as participating in trade fairs. In September, for instance, InvesTaiwan acted as a sponsor of AmCham Taipei’s 67th anniversary reception, using the occasion to spread its message that it can serve as a “one-stop service center” for dealings with the government, including local authorities.

The most common type of problem that investors request assistance with – in fact, it accounts for more than 50% of the cases – is the search for suitable land or existing factory building for their operations. InvesTaiwan maintains a large database of potential sites, and can also tap into data compiled by the Industrial Development Bureau and the various local governments.

When prospective new investors approach InvesTaiwan for help in getting established, the organization assigns one of its staff members to be their “angel,” guiding them through the procedures of applying to the Investment Commission for investment approval, obtaining company registration from the MOEA’s Department of Commerce, and meeting the various requirements at the local-government level.

Another key function of InvesTaiwan is to promote Taiwan as a prime location for foreign talent to come to live and work, particularly young would-be entrepreneurs with ideas for startups. Its Contact Taiwan website is a font of information on work regulations and opportunities in Taiwan. The organization has also dispatched recruiting missions to California, Boston, and Japan, and set up cooperative relations with some 40 universities around the world, including the Irvine and Riverside campuses of the University of California, the National University of Singapore, and Kobe, Waseda, and Meiji Universities in Japan.

Further, InvesTaiwan is putting increased effort into the role of investment promotion. In the past, the more than 60 MOEA representative offices abroad dealt mainly with trade affairs. Now 24 of them are also responsible for soliciting investment in Taiwan or investment opportunities together with Taiwanese partners in third countries, and members of Taiwan’s diplomatic corps have similarly been instructed by the foreign ministry to add this item to their job functions.

The kind of investment being sought is not limited to the traditional model of a manufacturing operation. “It could also be other types of activity such as a regional operations center, research center, or logistics center,” notes Chang.

To cope with the added duties, InvesTaiwan has recently expanded what was its 24-member staff, adding 10 more personnel through secondment from other government agencies. Chang says he is also striving to inculcate the organization with the mindset of dedication to “providing service with a global vision.” Beyond investment in Taiwan itself, the goal is to benefit Taiwan’s participation in global supply chains and to link with Taiwanese companies and their subsidiaries abroad.

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