American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei
|Bill Foreman, President|
The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham), founded in 1951 and based in Taipei, is a non-profit, non-partisan business organization dedicated to promoting the interests of international business in Taiwan. AmCham is the largest foreign business organization in Taiwan, with more than 1,000 members representing over 500 companies across a diverse array of sectors. Membership in AmCham Taipei does not require U.S. citizenship. AmCham is a founding member of APCAC. The Chamber's monthly journal is Taiwan Business TOPICS.
- 1 Organization & Leadership
- 2 Activities
- 3 History
- 4 Related Organizations
- 5 References
Organization & Leadership
An elected Board of Governors oversees AmCham, and chooses one of its members to serve as Chairman for a one-year term. The Board also hires a president to guide the overall direction and manage the day-to-day affairs of the Chamber. The current president is Bill Foreman.
AmCham Taipei represents its diverse membership in government advocacy efforts, provides a forum for networking and access to information, and encourages civic-minded participation in the greater Taiwan community.
Much of AmCham's advocacy efforts begin in one of 24 committees, whose fields of activity range from Agro-Chemical, Banking, and Manufacturing to Education & Training, Public Health and Travel & Tourism. Most committees formulate a priority issues paper included in the Taiwan White Paper.
Taiwan White Paper
Each year, AmCham publishes a white paper that summarizes AmCham's recommendations to the government and public on legislative, regulatory and enforcement issues that have a major impact on the quality of the business environment. The primary purposes are information and advocacy. The paper assesses the Taiwan business climate on both the macro level and sector by sector. It provides a review of the status of last year's priority issues, states the current issues identified by AmCham's industry-specific committees, and offers recommendations to the U.S. government.
Taiwan Business TOPICS
The Chamber's flagship publication provides year-round reporting and policy analysis in support of Chamber advocacy. First issued in 1969, TOPICS has become the definitive voice on the Taiwan business climate for executives, government officials, the media, and academics. The magazine appears monthly and enjoys widespread distribution to prominent officials, elected representatives, and think tanks in the United States and Taiwan. The June issue is devoted to the Taiwan White Paper.
Hsieh Nien Fan
An AmCham tradition since 1970, the Hiseh Nien Fan banquet is an opportunity to thank Taiwan government officials for their assistance in the previous year. Customarily, the president of the country is the keynote speaker.
AmCham registered with the Taipei City Government on 14 September 1951. The heads of five U.S. companies—three trading companies and the oil companies Caltex and Standard Vacuum (the precursor of both Exxon and Mobil)—joined together originally to lobby Washington to open Taiwan's procurement of equipment, raw materials, and commodities to U.S. private companies.
After this early success, AmCham grew, with early members including Eli Lilly, Mattel, Timex, and distributors for U.S. motion pictures. By the 1960s, the Chamber was developing into an active professional organization: In 1967, it held its first formal breakfast meeting; in 1968, it became a founding member of the new Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers (APCAC); and in 1969, AmCham published the first issue of its bimonthly magazine, now called Taiwan Business TOPICS.
Supporting Economic Development
U.S. companies played an important role in laying the groundwork for Taiwan's later economic achievements in the consumer electronics, computer, semiconductor, and flat panel display industries.
General Instrument's decision in 1964 to set up a subsidiary on the island to make various electronic components was a pioneering investment that prompted other major U.S. electronics companies to follow suit and laid the groundwork for Taiwan's entry into consumer electronics, which eventually led to the production of computers, semiconductors, and flat panel displays. General Instrument grew into one of Taiwan's biggest employers; by 1980, it had 10,000 workers.
American firms also helped advance Taiwan's 10 Big Projects, which in the 1970s provided the infrastructure foundation for the island's future economic prosperity. For Taiwan's first international-standard freeway—the Sun Yat-sen Freeway stretching from Keelung to Kaohsiung—U.S. engineering companies helped to conduct feasibility studies, design several sections, and provide construction engineering and inspection. Numerous American companies, including Amoco Chemical, Mesta Machine, General Electric (GE), Westinghouse, and U.S. Steel Corp., provided Taiwan's first integrated steel mill and its new petrochemical complex with investment, procurement, training, and engineering consultation.
American firms like Texas Instruments and Varian Associates were early entrants into the Hsinchu Science Park. Established in 1980 and inspired by the Stanford Research Park that nurtured Silicon Valley, Hsinchu has helped foster the development of some renowned global technology companies.
Helping Forge the Taiwan Relations Act
Following the shock of U.S. derecognition of Taiwan, AmCham Taipei's leadership played an instrumental role in determining the form of the continued U.S. relationship with Taiwan.
In 1976, under the chairmanship of Marinus “Dutch” van Gessel, AmCham made the strategic decision not to oppose the improvement of U.S. relations with mainland China—as long as it was not done at the expense of Taiwan. Van Gessel had previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce and by 1976 was heading up the Taiwan operations of Corning Glass. Concerned with giving due consideration to the potential impact on U.S. business interests of any change in U.S. diplomatic relations, in January 1977, van Gessel wrote a paper entitled The U.S. and the ROC: A Businessman’s View—A Position Paper of the American Chamber of Commerce in the ROC. The document laid out many of the principles later incorporated in the Taiwan Relations Act, the law passed by Congress in 1980 that has formed the basis of U.S. relations with Taiwan ever since.
Van Gessel also testified before a Congressional committee in 1977, and he organized a letter-writing campaign to Congressional offices and others in Washington to argue that the U.S. commitment to Taiwan's security was not only a military and diplomatic issue, but also crucial to the stability of the business environment.
The Shanghai Communique of 1972 made clear that the U.S. and China intended to normalize relations. Nevertheless, the timing of President Carter's announcement of derecognition of the R.O.C. in December 1978 caught Taiwan, and the American business community there, by surprise. According to the Chamber, "AmCham did not object to U.S. recognition of the PRC per se, but strongly objected to the terms of the agreement and to the discourtesy of the lack of proper advance notice to Taiwan."
Robert P. Parker (AmCham chairman in 1979 and 1980) played a key role in helping to reaffirm U.S. friendship with Taiwan. In February 1979, he represented AmCham in testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the “Omnibus Legislation” that had been drafted by the U.S. State Department and proposed by the Carter Administration as the basis for future unofficial relations with “the people of Taiwan.”
In his remarks, Parker emphasized that “normalization” jeopardized American economic interests in Taiwan and offered specific proposals for correcting the proposed legislation's failure to provide adequately for the security of Taiwan from threat or use of coercion from mainland China, as well as failure to offer a clear and sufficient legal framework for the continuation of U.S.-Taiwan relationships sufficient for continued trade and investment.
Parker noted that the prompt enactment of these specific proposals “would not only be in the interest of American business, [but also] necessary to meet our country’s moral responsibilities to Taiwan and its people.”
Managing the Impact of Derecognition
In the wake of the official switch of U.S. diplomatic relations, uncertainty surrounded the potential impact on Americans and other foreign residents in Taiwan. As the U.S. embassy in Taipei wrapped up its operations, AmCham stepped in to serve as the main conduit for communication with the Taiwan authorities to preserve or establish needed expatriate community organizations.
AmCham worked to establish International Community Radio Taiwan (ICRT) to replace the Armed Forced Network Taiwan (AFNT), which stopped broadcasting English-language news, entertainment, and vital emergency information on typhoons and earthquakes. The departure of the U.S. military also risked leaving a gap in social and recreational programs. The Chamber helped to create the Taipei Youth Program Association to provide recreational opportunities for expat children, and arranged for a new and larger location for the American Club in China (ACC). The Chamber also secured the legal status of the Taipei American School, then the sole large-scale institution of international education on the island.
Encouraging WTO Accession and Cross-Border Flows
In January 2002, Taiwan acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the name of Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. In 2008, Taiwan signed the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) under the WTO and began regularly scheduled cross-Strait direct air service. Committed to the easy flow of people, goods, services, and investment, AmCham lobbied hard for these developments.
- United States Chamber of Commerce
- US-Taiwan Business Council
- Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC)
- Shapiro, Don (September 2011). "Looking Back on Six Decades: AmCham Taipei's 60th Anniversary, Special Edition". Taiwan Business TOPICS. 41 (9): 8.
- Shapiro, Don (September 2011). "Looking Back on Six Decades: AmCham Taipei's 60th Anniversary, Special Edition". Taiwan Business TOPICS. 41 (9): 18.
- Shapiro, Don (September 2011). "Looking Back on Six Decades: AmCham Taipei's 60th Anniversary, Special Edition". Taiwan Business TOPICS. 41 (9).
- Wang, Lutao Sophis Kang (2006). K.T. Li and the Taiwan Experience. National Tsing Hua University Press. ISBN 9572988093.
- Shapiro, Don (September 2011). "Looking Back on Six Decades: AmCham Taipei's 60th Anniversary, Special Edition". 41 (9): 28–31.
- van Gessel, Marinus; Robert P. Parker (April 2009). "AmCham's Role in the TRA". Taiwan Business TOPICS. 39 (4): 25–27.
- Shapiro, Don; Rick Monday (September 2011). "Looking Back on Six Decades: AmCham Taipei's 60th Anniversary, Special Edition". Taiwan Business TOPICS. 41 (9): 32–36.
- Rickards, Jane (September 2011). "Looking Back on Six Decades: AmCham Taipei's 60th Anniversary, Special Edition". Taiwan Business TOPICS. 41 (9): 47–51.