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Libya eyes investment from Taiwan SMEs

2010/04/19 20:45:05

Taipei, April 19 (CNA) Libya is hoping for direct investment fromTaiwan's small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the NorthAfrican country seeks to become the region's technology hub, visitingLibyan officials said at a seminar Monday.

Officials from the Libyan Economic Development Board (EDB)briefed dozens of Taiwanese businessmen on potential trade andinvestment opportunities in Libya, which has maintained warmrelations with Taiwan in recent years despite the lack of officialbilateral diplomatic ties.

EDB Director-General Mahmoud Gebril said the Libyan governmentlaunched a series of ambitious programs in 2007, many of which weredesigned by the EDB, to develop the country's modern infrastructureand "soft power," including education and technology.

Taiwan's SMEs, especially in the information and communicationtechnology (ICT) sector, are welcome to invest in Libya and will playan important role in its national development if they do, Gebrilsaid.

Mike Hung, chairman of the Taiwan-Africa Industry DevelopmentAssociation, said trade with Libya is more viable now that the UnitedNations (U.N.) has lifted its trade sanctions and bans on aircraftmovements, oil exports and arm sales that were originally imposedover Libya's suspected terror links.

But he noted that Taiwanese businesses never stopped doingbusiness with Tripoli during the time sanctions were in force becauseLibyan businessmen enjoyed good reputations.

Gebril, who insisted that the trip was private because of thesensitivity of Taiwan-China-Libya relations, encouraged Taiwan's SMEsto take advantage of the country's strategic geographic location,connecting the European Union (EU) , Africa and the Arab world andserving as a gateway to the African market.

He added that Tripoli would provide foreign investors with a widerange of incentives, such as tax exemptions in a special economiczone, to create a win-win situation for both parties.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is also hoping to strengthen its exchanges withLibya. Bilateral trade volume between the two countries grew by 2.7percent last year, one of Taiwan's few trade relationships to showpositive growth during the global economic slump, said ChangShih-chang, Europe and Africa Section manager of the Taiwan ExternalTrade Development Council (TAITRA), Taiwan's trade promotion agency.

In May 2006, then-Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian made a surprisevisit to Tripoli, where he was greeted by Libyan leader MuammarAl-Gaddafi.

Saif Gaddafi, son of the leader, reportedly visited Taiwan priorto Chen's meeting with his father, who has ruled the country since1969. The visit was dubbed as a "diplomatic breakthrough" by the Chenadministration.

In addition to the ICT sector, Taiwan SMEs which specialize inthe water purification, solar energy, machinery, infrastructure,hotel, and petrochemical sectors are also encouraged to invest, Hungsaid.

He also suggested that Taiwan's yacht manufacturers could takeadvantage of Libya's 1,770-kilometer coastline.

Libya has been keen to diversify its economy away from itstraditionally heavy reliance on oil exports, Hung said, which is whyLibya has announced plans to privatize more than 100 state-ownedcompanies and encourage more foreign direct investment (FDI).

There are dozens of Taiwanese businessmen in Libya at present,Hung said. Taiwan's state-owned petrochemical giant CPC Corp. hasjust launched an oil exploration project this month after winningtenders on oil exploration rights in southern Libya, he said.

(By Chris Wang)