TAIPEI (Reuters) – Nearly half of companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taiwan viewed geopolitical concerns as a barrier to expansion or investment on the island, but that number has fallen significantly even as Chinese tensions persist.
China, which considers democratically ruled Taiwan its territory despite the objections of the Taipei government, is stepping up military and political pressure to assert its sovereignty claims.
Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which China considers a dangerous separatist, won this month's presidential election and is set to take office on May 20, despite his party losing its parliamentary majority.
In a survey released Tuesday, which was conducted between November 20 and December 15, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan said 46% of respondents consider “geopolitical uncertainty” the main factor preventing them from expanding or investing in Taiwan.
Although this is down 20 percentage points from the previous survey, it is still higher than other factors such as bureaucracy and skilled labor shortages.
“So, while they view geopolitics as a risk, it is not a significant deterrent,” Dan Silver, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan, told reporters.
More than half of the survey participants said that relations with China should be a priority for the Taiwan government in the next three years.
“Although our members are not expressing high levels of concern about the actions taken by China, businesses need a stable and peaceful environment to thrive,” added American-Taiwan Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Lin.
The Taiwan Chamber of Commerce, which said 223 of its 444 eligible members responded to the survey, said 92 percent intend to maintain or increase investment in the island this year, noting that confidence in Taiwan is “flying high.”
The group called for an ambitious agenda to accelerate economic cooperation with Taiwan through a new framework for trade talks between Taiwan and the United States – and eventually a bilateral trade agreement, which the Taiwan government has also called for.
Silver said he believes the prospects for such an agreement are “modest” but that Taiwan needs to “urgently seek and urgently respond to outreach from the United States to move toward new agreements.”