‘Dutch entrepreneurs, do business with Taiwan!’
The World Port Tournament, scheduled to take place between 12 and 21 July in Rotterdam, is not merely the city’s second largest spectacular sports event. The baseball tournament is also a perfect platform for setting up international business deals. With companies from Taiwan, for example.
Friends in Business visited the Taiwanese embassy to discuss trade relations between the two countries with the ambassador, Taiwanese CEOs and seasoned Dutch entrepreneurs.
It is time for Friday afternoon drinks when a crescendo of loud applause reverberates from the high ceiling in the Taiwanese embassy in The Hague's chic Statenkwartier district. Not because the karaoke set has been pulled out of the cupboard (something that happens regularly here at this time) or because the drinks cabinet and fridge have been opened. No, the applause is for an enthusiastic, youthful-looking Dutchman, with a touch of grey at the temples.
His name? Paddy Roomer. His position? Commercial Manager of the World Port Tournament (WPT). His message? The WPT is going to arrange a Taiwan day. On Tuesday 16 July, the day when Taiwan – where baseball is by far the most popular sport in the country – and the Netherlands will face off during the seventeenth edition of this highly acclaimed baseball tournament.
Mountains, beaches, culture and baseball
‘The day will be devoted to promoting Taiwan’, says Roomer with a broad smile. ‘With Taiwanese food, Taiwanese entertainment and promotional videos displayed on the big screens. I hope to replicate the atmosphere of two years ago, when Taiwan won the tournament and the stands were packed with people waving Taiwanese flags. The Netherlands is the largest investor in Taiwan (3.5 billion dollars in 2018 – Ed.), but Taiwan invests even more in the Netherlands (6.2 billion dollars in 2018 – Ed.). So, Taiwan does a lot for our country and people should be more aware of that. As well as the fact that Taiwan is a fantastic holiday destination, with its mountains, beaches and attractive culture. In addition, we hope to bring Taiwanese and Dutch companies and government departments into even closer contact with each other. My aim is to open doors that normally remain closed through baseball. Because I'm convinced we can do a great deal for each other.’
Living proof of the idea that the WPT can help generate international business connections is sitting in person next to Roomer. His name is Rob Bom, Manager Relationship Marketing and Sales of VLS, one of the largest cleaning companies in the Rotterdam region. It was through Roomer's business baseball platform that he initially met Jack Wu, general manager of Antec (a specialist in computer components for the gaming industry) and Edward Tseng, general manager of the Dutch subsidiary of Re-Teck, which focuses on supply chain management for technological products. As a result, VLS has won the cleaning contract for both companies. Jordex, a shipping and forwarding specialists, now also does business with Antec thanks to the WPT.
‘The atmosphere during the WPT is very open and uncomplicated’, says Bom. ‘It’s a great place for meeting people at the right level, specifically CEOs of Dutch companies and those of foreign companies with a subsidiary in the Netherlands. My contacts with Taiwanese companies have always been very warm and friendly. People from Taiwan are less distant than most Asians. It’s easier to do business with them, because they are very open. That's something that perhaps not all Dutch entrepreneurs are aware of.’
And that needs to change, says Mrs Hsin Chen, Taiwan's ambassador to the Netherlands since 1 January. One of her main tasks is to promote trade between the two countries. “That's why I am delighted by the chances the World Port Tournament offers. This is a huge opportunity to do more business. We can still put Taiwan on the map even more clearly and must take the initiative in doing so. And what could be better than achieving that objective in combination with baseball, the most popular sport in our country and also our main source of national pride?’
200 Taiwanese companies
The people at the table nod approvingly. In addition to the Taiwanese CEOs mentioned previously, Jack Sung (Chairman of the Taiwan Business Association in The Netherlands), Coleman Liu from Meanwell (power supplies), Roger Han (Senior Vice President Europe of China Airlines) and Judy Chang (General Manager of EVA Air) are also present. They are all members of the Taiwanese business community in the Netherlands, which amounts to about 200 companies. ‘And the number is still growing,’ says Jack Sung of the Taiwan Business Association. ‘The Taiwanese shipping and forwarding companies in Rotterdam and the airlines in Amsterdam have been based in the Netherlands for some time now. The primary opportunity for growth lies in the technology sector, which is mainly located in and around Eindhoven. Furthermore, Merida and Giant, two globally respected bicycle brands from Taiwan, also have major offices in the Netherlands.’
Why is the Netherlands so popular among Taiwanese companies? Jack Wu from Antec, who has lived in the Netherlands for 27 years now, gives us his view. The Netherlands has a reputation for good logistics and transport facilities. In addition, you offer a favourable business climate and companies don't immediately have to pay tax and duty on the goods they import.’ Coleman Liu (Meanwell) adds: ‘The Netherlands is also a strategic location. It is the gateway to the rest of Europe for many Asian countries, including Taiwan. “Both by air and by water.’
Travel hub Holland
Roger Han from China Airlines, Taiwan's national airline, confirms this. ‘Thirty-five years ago, Amsterdam was our first European destination, thanks in part to the welcoming attitude of the Dutch government. Schiphol is now one of our most important airports. It really has become a hub for the whole of North-western Europe. Both for passengers and cargo. We transport large quantities of flowers and fish to Taiwan and bring many tonnes of technological products to Europe in the other direction.’
Fantastic holiday destination
China Airlines currently operates 28 weekly flights directly from Taipei to Amsterdam and vice versa. EVA Air has also been based in the Netherlands for some time now and is very happy with this choice. We fly directly to Bangkok and Taipei and notice that more and more travellers like to fly with us,' says Judy Chang, General Manager of EVA, which is part of the Evergreen Group, an organisation that also has many other interests in the Port of Rotterdam. ‘So we feel very at home in the Netherlands.’ Roger Han does have a slightly critical comment to make though. ‘Holiday flights to Taiwan is an area where a great deal of progress can still be made. Taiwan is a fantastic holiday destination; you can dive in the ocean and laze on the beach, but you can also visit the busy, modern metropolises, experience ancient culture in the old cities and cycle in the mountains. This needs to be publicised more effectively. We should definitely collaborate more with Dutch companies in the tourism sector to tackle this.’
Twins with different mothers
Taiwan can play a strategic role in business terms, as the Dutch have known since the golden era of the 17th century. At the time, Dutch skippers sailing under the flag of the Dutch East India Company used Taiwan (then still known as Formosa) as a base for trade with Japan and China. ‘And that is still our role today’, says Edward Tseng (Re-Teck). ‘Taiwan is the gateway to China and South-east Asia. Our location is ideal for Dutch companies that want to do business in Asia. That gateway function is something we share with the Netherlands, furthermore we are both small and densely populated countries, have trading in our blood and love bicycles.’
Taiwan stands out particularly in the area of technology. ‘We are the global number four in terms of innovation’, says Ambassador Chen. ‘The fact that Google and Facebook have set up operations in Taiwan speaks volumes. They know that young, talented people with good technical qualifications are easy to find in Taiwan. In addition, intellectual property rights are fully protected in Taiwan; this is not always the case in several other countries.’
Networking at the WPT
Jack Wu (Antec): ‘We also guarantee quality. If you want a cheap product that only lasts a year, China is the place to go. The quality of our products is always excellent.’Roger Han (China Airlines): ‘Like the Dutch, we are reliable and smart. We always keep our promises.’‘So my message is simple: Dutch entrepreneurs, do business with Taiwan', says Ambassador Chen. ‘If you would like to meet us in person first? Simply come to the World Port Tournament, because the true nature and pride of the Taiwanese comes to the surface during a baseball game.’