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Resulting from a combination of domestic and global political developments, the economy of Taiwan remains delicate, with the major issues of the last few years remaining in place. The nationalist government of President Tsai Ing-Wen promised in 2016 to sever links with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and to promote trade and partnership with other Asean nations. The domestic situation has been made all the more precarious in light of the PRC’s maintained claim of sovereignty over the island.

The international risks arising from the government’s foreign policy are twofold. In light of deteriorating cross-Strait relations, the PRC has stepped up ‘dollar diplomacy’. China has increased efforts to win over Taiwan’s allies through investment initiatives, which have reduced the number of countries that recognise it as an independent nation to 17 as of September 2018. The other major international issue facing Taiwanese companies is the growing trade war between the US and China. Although Taiwan is not directly affected by US or Chinese tariffs, local companies have significant investments in hi-tech manufacturing operations in China, the relocation of which is unfeasible. Taken together, the future looks uncertain.

Domestically, government regulators have become more hostile to Chinese companies entering the market. Therefore, in the absence of significant inbound investment, the domestic market is in a consolidation phase. There is significant M&A activity across all sectors of the market, in particular the semiconductor and banking industries. Taiwanese businesses are also increasingly investing abroad, most notably in the US, Japan and Germany. In light of the trend for M&A, lawyers reported an increase in fundraising activity on the market for active and speculative corporate transactions. Renewable energy continues to represent a strong area of the market, as the Formosa 1 offshore wind project nears completion and further projects have been announced. Intellectual property (IP) continues to be an important feature of the market and as M&A activity has increased, so too has the transfer of IP portfolios. There has also been an increase of trade secrets cases involving companies in the PRC and a general increase in cross-border IP disputes.

The legal market remains stable, with Jones Day and Baker McKenzie still strong among the international firms and Lee and Li, Attorneys-at-LawTsar & Tsai Law FirmFormosan Brothers Attorneys at Law and Formosa Transnational Attorneys at Law leading local firms. Firms such as LCS & PartnersChien Yeh Law Offices and Lin & Partners Attorneys-At-Law are key names for mid-market clients.

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