Taipei, April 26 (CNA) The European Union's inclusion of Taiwan in its visa waiver program in January last year could lead to an increase in Taiwanese investment in the region, a senior official from the economics ministry said Thursday.
"Because of the visa-free treatment, more Taiwanese are willing to go to Europe, and thus are gaining a better understanding of the region," said Terry Lee, deputy director-general of the Economics Ministry's Department of Investment Services, at a press briefing.
Lee's remark came after Frederic Laplanche, head of the European Economic and Trade Office, urged Taiwan to invest more in Europe.
In the period 1952-2011, there were 2,780 European companies’ investment plans in Taiwan worth US$30.2 billion, while Taiwan only had 683 investment plans in Europe totaling US$2.8 billion, he said.
"Indeed, there is still much room (for Taiwan's investment in Europe) to grow," said Lee.
Laplanche gave the assurance that the EU will come out of the current debt crisis and will develop a better economic environment.
The EU has been working hard to solve the debt problem though measures such as a fiscal compact aimed at reducing debts across the continent, he said. The whole economic environment will improve, he said.
"Taiwan's companies can start to invest in Europe this year, and harvest next year," he said with a smile.
Lee said some of the reasons why few Taiwan companies have invested in the world's biggest economy include culture, language and lifestyle differences, as well as physical distance.
However, as Taiwanese learn more about Europe, they will be more willing to do business and invest there, he said.
"I'm very optimistic," he said, adding that his ministry will make an effort to guide Taiwan-based companies toward investment in Europe to achieve a win-win situation.
A total of 239,062 Taiwanese traveled to the Schengen area in 2011, up 38.66 percent from the previous year, according to government statistics.
(By James Lee)