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Uber chief adviser pushes ride-hailing service's case in Taiwan

David Plouffe, Uber's chief adviser, said Taiwan needs to embrace changes in technology and consider lifting the ban on the U.S. ride-sharing company if it wants to be Asia's Silicon Valley. (Photo by Cheng Ting-Fang)

TAIPEI -- A senior executive from Uber Technology on Friday urged Taiwan to amend its laws and be more open to new technology services as officials from the island consider banning the U.S. ride-sharing company after it failed to meet regulatory requirements.

"If Taiwan wants to be a Silicon Valley of Asia, potentially pushing out an innovative company like Uber is not the right message," said David Plouffe, Uber's chief adviser and board director, in response to questions from the Nikkei Asian Review during a panel discussion in Taipei.

Plouffe said that over the past two and half years more than 100 laws have been passed in countries and cities all over the world to allow the ride-hailing service provider to operate more smoothly.

He added that taxi drivers should not oppose Uber, as the new service platform actually provides new "options" for their careers and opportunities for them to make more money.

Plouffe was campaign manager for Barack Obama's successful run for the U.S. presidency in 2008. He later became a White House adviser before joining the Silicon Valley-based startup in 2014. Uber is valued at $62.5 billion with high-profile investors including Goldman Sachs and Google Ventures.

Plouffe's remarks came after his company had yet another bruising setback, with a British court ruling in a landmark case at the end of October that Uber should treat its drivers as employees and pay them the country's minimum wage. On Nov. 2, Uber was hit by a lawsuit from a long-established cab company in San Francisco asking for $5 million for endangering the local taxi industry. In Asia, Uber is still negotiating with authorities to prevent it from being kicked out of countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam due to regulatory breaches.

Taiwanese transportation ministry official Hu Ti-Chi told the Nikkei Asian Review that although Uber claimed it is always willing to communicate with authorities, its actions to adopt local laws have been limited.

"Uber is reluctant to work with local taxi operators to create a win-win relationship and the company does not want to shoulder the responsibility for its passengers' safety," said Hu.

Hu said her ministry will continue to enforce laws and ban Uber's illegal operations using heavy fines.

Uber, together with its Taiwanese drivers, has so far paid some 57.3 million New Taiwan dollars ($1.82 million) in fines for operating illegally, according to the transportation ministry.

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