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Taiwan - A great place to start a business
[07.04.2013, 07:33pm, Sun. GMT]
Most Norwegians know very little about Taiwan, as Norwegian newspapers may act as they are bought up by China. Only last week, I met a young man on a tram in Oslo, who had never heard of Taiwan. However, for most Norwegians, the term Made in Taiwan is well known. The Norwegian government is the only Scandinavian country without a representative in Taiwan. The Norwegian Embassy in Singapore is responsible for the Norwegians in Taiwan.Norway became an independent country from Sweden in 1905; but in Taiwan, Norway is still part of Sweden and even Denmark. If Norwegians in Taiwan need an Emergency passport, they may get it from the Danish Trade Office in Taipei. If Norwegians want help in marketing in Taiwan, they may use the Swedish Trade Office.  

So now, Elias Ek (photo), originally from Sweden, has written a book for Norwegians and other foreigners about how to start a business in Taiwan. He lived in the USA and Japan before moving to Taiwan, in 2000.

I met Elias Ek at the Swedish booth at the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) earlier this year. He has worked for many years, together with different chambers of commerce and great people, to support foreign entrepreneurs in Taiwan.

- Why do entrepreneurs move to Taiwan?

- Taiwan has a great location; it is in the heart of the Asia-Pacific region. The average flying time from Taiwan to the 7 major cities in the Western Pacific is merely 2 hours and 55 minutes. To cities in China, it takes an even shorter time. The average sailing time from Taiwan's largest harbour, in Kaohsiung, to the 5 major Asia-Pacific harbours is only 53 hours.

- All together, there are less than 30 Norwegians living in Taiwan.

Shanghai, across the Taiwan Strait, has more than 800 Norwegians.

- If you want to do business with China, Taiwan is a perfect stepping stone. It has strong cultural links and the same language. Taiwan is a great place to test new products or your own cross-cultural business skills, before heading to China. More than 1 million Taiwanese do business in China. Something like, 25% of China's exports are actually sales by Taiwanese companies operating subsidiaries in China.

- But if I do not speak the language?

- The main language in both China and Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese. It is a benefit for newcomers to Taiwan to study the language intensively in the first year. When I arrived here in 2000, I met a staff member at the airport who could not understand English. Today people in Taipei have foreign friends and are able to practice English often. Taiwan has an English radio station, ICRT (www.icrt.com.tw), and several English newspapers. Taiwan has many English cram schools. Many Taiwanese young people join churches that offer services in English. The signs at the metro and bus stations in Taipei are in English and Chinese. If you can read English, you will not have language problems travelling in Taipei. 

Ma Ying-jeou (top photo) of The Republic of China would like the foreign community in Taiwan to grow and therefore told me he welcomes the book from Elias Ek. 

- So it is easy to get contacts in Taiwan?

- Yes, the Taiwanese are very helpful and friendly to foreigners. They are not shy to talk with you or offer you help. The contacts you make in Taiwan will be invaluable when you enter the Chinese market, as Taiwanese businesses with connections on the mainland will be able to help you in this difficult environment.

- How is it to live in Taiwan?

- Taiwan is a modern first-world country with excellent infrastructure and a good quality of life. Everyone in Taiwan has access to good healthcare, corruption is rare and there is a strong commitment to human rights and freedom of speech. In Taiwan, you are free to have full (100%) ownership of your business and generally have the same rights as the local people. If you need to go to court, for any reason, you can be reasonably confident of a fair hearing without anyone asking for bribes.

 -The official name of Taiwan is The Republic of China, often written short RoC. As a joke, many say RoC stands for Republic of Computers.

- For decades, Taiwan has a strong manufacturing industry with its expertise in electronics and technology. Today, there is an increasing focus on software and creative industries. Taiwanese entrepreneurs in other countries are doing well. Youtube and Yahoo were both created by Taiwanese immigrants to the USA.

RoC may also stand for Republic of Cycles, as Taiwan has many bike factories. The Taiwan bike fair is not the biggest, but is the best bike fair in the world. Many Norwegians participate every year in order to get a good deal. Even China has many companies at the fair. Last year's bike fair had 26 participants from Norway (http://www.norwaynews.com/en/~view.php?72U9554vQd4832t285Sjg844VR3883VA76Byl353QbS8).

Taiwan has different international fairs all year around. Norway has never participated with a booth, but China is often represented, sometimes Sweden and Finland too.

China does not like the fact that the Norwegian government allows independent organisations to have free speech. Therefore, China makes it difficult for Norwegian companies to do business in China. Norwegians are not granted a visa to China, but they do not need a visa to visit Taiwan. The international fairs, in Taiwan, are a gateway to China.

Business schools in Norway are very satisfied with their cooperation and student exchange program with the National Chengchi University, in Taipei. The university has an incubator and offers you, for a small monthly fee, the ability to register your office there.

I have read the book and found it useful when doing business in Taiwan. It is not easy to start a business in Taiwan, as there are many rules to follow. This is not only a teaching book, it also has many links to interesting websites needed in the daily workplace. It is therefore, good to read the book sitting next to an online computer. Subjects mentioned within the book are cultural issues, marketing in Taiwan, how to rent or buy an office, business registration, trademarks and patents, how to find employees and correct salaries. The book is also about visas, tax, laws and how to get a lawyer, and legal assistance. It has information about different business groups and Chambers of Commerce open for Norwegians to join. At their meetings, you may get to know people who can help you or give you advice.

How to start a business in Taiwan has plenty of links to public organisations who offer advice for free. You will save time if you find a Taiwanese partner or ask a lawyer to develop a suitable business and/or company structure for you.  

Then you can use this book to understand how it is done.

The first edition of the book is printed in paperback by an unknown printing company in Taiwan. However, the book is now only for sale online.  In Norway, blue is the colour for business students and the right wing political party. With the book's red cover, it may also be sent to business people in China.

Mr.Geir Yeh Fotland - Taiwan National Correspondent NORWAY NEWS.com
Email: - geiryeh@gmail.com

You may find more information on www.startabusinessintaiwan.tw
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