Saturday, January 30, 2010

U.S. newcomers adapt to SBL's 'guard-driven' game

Taipei, Jan. 30 (CNA) U.S. basketball players Shawn Hawkins and Jeff Jones are rarities, two of only six foreign players performing in Taiwan's professional Super Basketball League (SBL) this year.

Though the two newcomers have had to alter their styles to the local game, they both say they're happy to be playing here, have the chance to explore a different culture, and showcase their talent to take their teams to the next level.

To improve its competitive level, the seven-team SBL decided for the first time this year to allow all of its teams to hire foreign players rather than limit the option to non-playoff teams, as had been the case in the past.

That was what brought Hawkins and Jones to Taiwan in January and why the 2010 SBL season has been billed as "a battle of foreign players." The expectations have so far panned out. Hawkins is averaging a league-best 22.7 points and 9.3 rebounds while Jones is currently leading the league with 13.3 rebounds per game, and his 19.3 points per game ranks fourth.

With Hawkins' help, Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor (KKL) has opened the season with a 4-2 record and is the league's most improved team.

Before coming to Taiwan, Hawkins was mostly known as the grandson of former National Basketball Association (NBA) great Connie Hawkins, a New York City playground legend who played in the NBA and American Basketball Association from 1961 to 1976.

Hawkins says he is used to people talking about his grandfather, but he is now happy to know that he can also be his own man and show the fans what he can do.

Jones landed in Taiwan through the power of the Internet. Doug Creighton, Jones' teammate at Bank of Taiwan (BOT), was assigned to find another foreign player for the team because of his U.S.

background, and he found Jones' contact information on a basketball Web site and sent him an e-mail to initiate the deal.

The 203-centimeter forward has only appeared in three games so far this season because of an extended delay in getting a work permit, but it was worth the wait.

Jones had 20 points and 20 rebounds Saturday in leading BOT to an upset win over powerhouse Yulon Luxgen and helping snap the team's six-game losing streak.

Both players have been forced to play different positions in Taiwan than they were accustomed to in the United States because of the generally shorter Asian players.

That means Hawkins, a shooting guard in the U.S., is playing forward, and Jones, a natural small forward, has to play all three frontcourt positions.

The SBL, like other Asian leagues, features a more fast-paced game, observes Hawkins, who also has played in South Korea. Jones agrees, saying that the league is more of a guard-based game focused on jump shots and three-pointers rather than driving and dunking.

Before arriving in Taiwan, neither of the two players knew much about the country, and the newcomers have not had the time or opportunity to explore Taipei or the island because of tight game schedules and pressure to turn the team around immediately.

But they've taken to Taiwan's fans, Hawkins says, "because they support you whether you're winning or losing." The group of six U.S. players have a unique relationship -- they are rivals on the court and friends off it, hanging out to soothe their homesickness.

Besides Jones and Hawkins, only Taiwan Mobile's Antonio Grant is new to the league, while the other three are familiar with Taiwan.

Byron Allen helped Dacin Tigers to its first championship in history last season and re-signed with the team. Jonathan Sanders became the first import to play for three Taiwanese teams when he signed with Pure Youth Construction, and Taiwan Beer's Delvin Thomas also returned with a different team.

"We were always taught in the States to leave everything on the basketball court. Once the buzzer starts, we're enemies. But once that buzzer's over, we can smile and hang out, " Jones said.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No comment from MOFA on China's rescue of Taiwanese tourists in Peru

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) declined to comment Thursday on media reports that China plans to help evacuate Taiwanese tourists stranded in the Peruvian tourist attraction of Machu Picchu by heavy rain and mudslides.

Seven Taiwanese tourists remained stranded in the World Heritage site as of press time, while another 15 had been rescued, according to ministry officials.

Torrential rain and mudslides closed the ancient site over the weekend, prompting the Peruvian government to airlift stranded tourists from the city.

MOFA spokesman Henry Chen said MOFA knew nothing about the Chinese rescue and declined to comment on the media reports as they could not be confirmed.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported late Wednesday that the Peruvian authorities had agreed to a request by China to airlift the Taiwanese tourists from Machu Picchu after the Chinese Embassy in the Peruvian capital of Lima received an emergency call from a Taiwanese travel agency.

Earlier this month, China said it would help with Taiwan's consular affairs in Haiti after the Republic of China Embassy collapsed during a magnitude-7 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation.

In December 2009, China claimed it had helped with the release of four detained Taiwanese fishermen in Myanmar, which MOFA denied.

In July 2008, China also said it had helped with a search mission for eight missing Taiwanese businessmen in Madagascar.

On the basis of humanitarian relief, Chen said, Taiwan welcomes assistance offered by any country and at the same time will provide aid to other countries and collaborate with all parties on humanitarian relief efforts.

However, he went on, the ministry always makes direct contact with Taiwanese overseas representative offices to deal with such incidents and help Taiwanese nationals.

Taiwanese player knocked out of Australian Open

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) Taiwan's Huang Liang-chi and Japan's Yasutaka Uchiyama were beaten 6-3, 7-6 by German pair Kevin Krawietz and Dominik Schulz Thursday in the semi-final of the junior boys' doubles finals at the Australian Tennis Open.

In the senior competition, the Taiwanese players in the singles competitions did not last long, with Lu Yen-hsun, Chan Yung-jan and Chang Kai-chen all crashing out early in the men's and women's singles.

In the women's doubles, a category in which Taiwanese players have had relative success in recent years, Hsieh Su-wei, Chan Yung-jan and Chuang Chia-jung all lost in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ECFA negotiators again pledge agriculture, labor protection

Taipei, Jan. 27 (CNA) Fresh off a just-concluded first round of talks with China on a proposed trade agreement, Taiwan negotiators again pledged Wednesday that there will be no further opening to Chinese agricultural products or admission of Chinese labor under the pact.

Negotiators from Taiwan and China gathered in Beijing Tuesday for the first official meeting on the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), which is aimed at improving bilateral economic ties and lowering trade barriers.

The issues of agriculture and labor are two of the main concerns mentioned in local public forums, as farmers and local workers fear they would be squeezed out if labor and more agricultural products from China are allowed to enter the Taiwan market Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Liu Teh-hsun said Taiwan has made clear its position that there will be no lifting of the current restrictions on 836 Chinese agricultural products.

China fully understood Taiwan's position, therefore, "no textual representation (of that position) is required in the final agreement," Liu told the media.

The negotiations did not touch on the labor issue, but the Taiwan government is willing to explain this over and over again to allay public fears, said Kao Koong-lian, Vice President of the Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF), Taiwan's quasi-official organization that deals with cross-Strait matters.

Blue-collar workers were not included in Taiwan's commitment to the movement of natural persons when it entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002, therefore Chinese workers will not be allowed to work in Taiwan, said Huang Chih-peng, Director General of Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT).

"Chinese labor will not be an issue, " said Huang, one of the 13 members of the Taiwan delegation that was engaged in the talks.

Council of Agriculture (COA) Vice Chairman Hu Hsing-hua also reiterated Tuesday that Taiwan's agricultural sector is small and vulnerable and that agricultural issues will not be included in the negotiations.

Kao and Liu declined to confirm the date and location of the second round of talks on the trade pact, but it was reported it would take place in Taipei before the Chinese New Year in mid-February.

Only the basic contents of the pact were discussed in the first round of talks during which the two sides agreed on the inclusion of an early harvest list for tariff concessions in the initial stages of the pact.

The two sides also agreed to discuss commodity trading and market opening to service trade, origin certification rules, mechanisms for solving trade disputes, trade relief, investment and economic cooperation.

The negotiators did not produce their early harvest lists but only talked about the major principles regarding the agreement, Huang said.

Huang advances to junior boys' doubles semifinal at Aussie Open

Taipei, Jan. 27 (CNA) Taiwan's Huang Liang-chi and Japan's Yasutaka Uchiyama defeated the Russian pair Victor Baluda and Richard Muzaev 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) , 10-6 Wednesday to advance to the Australian Tennis Open junior boys' doubles semifinal in Melbourne.

Huang, seeded fourth in the boys' doubles, was the only player still alive in the grand slam event after Chuang Chia-jung and her Slovakian partner Filip Polasek lost 6-3, 3-6, 12-10 Wednesday to Lisa Raymond (USA) and Wesley Moodie (RSA) in the mixed doubles quarterfinal.

With Chuang's loss, all the Taiwanese players have been eliminated from the senior level competition. Huang and Uchiyama will meet the German pair Kevin Krawietz and Dominik Schulz in the semifinal.

Huang shook off a disappointing performance the previous day when he was upset by Australian James Duckworth 7-6 (7-3) , 6-4 in the second round of boys' singles.

On Wednesday, China's Li Na followed in the footsteps of her compatriot Zheng Jie, rallying to beat the U.S.' Venus Williams 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in the women's singles quarterfinal. China has entered two players in a grand slam event for the first time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Taiwan urged to diversify trade to avoid coercion by China

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) Taiwan should diversify its trade relations with other countries to prevent China from using closer cross-Taiwan Strait relations as a political tool for non-military coercion, Washington-based U.S. scholars said Tuesday.

While Taiwan, China and the international community are generally pleased with the easing of cross-strait tensions and closer economic ties in the 19 months since President Ma Ying-jeou took office, there are still concerns over Taiwan-China relations, they said.

Even as Taiwan is negotiating an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, it should also try to diversify its trade and investment to avoid "handing China a potent tool for non-military coercion," said Richard Fontaine, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Taiwan is therefore urged to develop closer economic ties with the U.S. as well as with the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) , he said in a digital video conference organized by the American Cultural Center to discuss recent cross-Taiwan Strait developments and U.S.-Taiwan-China relations.

Strangely enough, Fontaine said, Taiwan-China trade relations will be freer than Taiwan-U.S. trade relations after the ECFA is signed. He called for the U.S. to "lend some diplomatic muscle, or at least encouragement, to Taiwan's efforts to strike trade deals with other countries, including those in ASEAN and elsewhere."

Fontaine noted that China has showed in the past year that it could unilaterally dictate Taiwan-China relations by restricting tourists, reducing investment flows and establishing new trade barriers, which he said poses a threat and increases Taiwan's vulnerability.

The scholars offered a range of opinions on the key question of whether China will block Taiwan's attempts to ink free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that, assuming the ECFA is signed, she would be optimistic about China's goodwill, as the "real issue" is which name Taiwan uses in signing those FTAs.

She said China will not interfere with Taiwan's efforts in this regard because Chinese President Hu Jintao mentioned in his Six Points that China offered to assist Taiwan on its participation in regional integration. China will also be careful about any negative impact on President Ma's presidential campaign in 2012, she added.

Alan Romberg, a senior fellow at Stimson Center, argued that Beijing wants to make sure the Taiwan sovereignty issue will not be raised in Taiwan's negotiations with other countries. In fear of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) return to power in 2012 and a resurfacing of the Taiwan independence issue, China is expected to keep a tight rein, he said.

"Beijing should encourage Taiwan's international participation, as long as the sovereignty issue is off the table, " instead of reviewing the issue on a case-by-case basis as it is doing currently, he said.

In any case, Romberg said, the ECFA is not easy to negotiate because it has become a domestic "political football, " and even without China's obstruction, negotiations for FTAs with ASEAN countries will not be an easy task, he said.

One thing is sure -- China will not push for political dialogue with Taiwan after the ECFA is signed because it realizes that "President Ma's situation does not permit rapid movement in that area... so it's not seeking to press the pace," Romberg added.

On the issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, Romberg said that China needs to realize that such sales "will give President Ma more confidence and public backing in his handling of the cross-strait issue."

U.S. scholars see WTO as best path to resolving beef dispute

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) U.S. scholars said Tuesday Taiwan should not dismiss the possible fallout from the U.S. beef row and they suggested that the U.S. take the case to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for resolution.

Taiwan's reinstatement of a partial ban on U.S. beef imports, achieved earlier this month through a law amendment, was seen by the U.S. as a unilateral abrogation of a beef protocol signed between the two sides last October.

Taiwan should not dismiss the damage the issue could cause, because "at the minimum it has slowed down the negotiations" of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between both sides, said Alan Romberg, a senior fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center.

The best way for the U.S. to resolve the issue is to go through the WTO's trade dispute mechanism, Romberg said in a digital video conference on recent cross-Taiwan Strait developments, organized by the American Cultural Center.

The WTO mechanism is a multilateral system of settling disputes between its members. According to the WTO Web site, a dispute is usually settled in 12 months without appeal or 15 months with appeal.

Countries in dispute can settle their differences at any stage of the process, it states.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), expressed a similar view, saying that while beef imports account for only a tiny portion of U.S.-Taiwan trade, it's best for the U.S. to put the matter in the hands of the WTO.

"Our (U.S.) Congress actually changed (domestic) laws to make sure they are WTO consistent and compliant. It seems to me Taiwan's Legislative Yuan is just the opposite, " Glaser said in response to a comment the U.S. Congress had not ratified or approved some agreements in the past.

The agreements or protocols that the U.S. Congress did not ratify were international agreements involving many countries with different positions -- not bilateral agreements that had already been signed, she explained.

By taking the case to the WTO, the U.S. will also be able to "depoliticize" the issue, Glaser said.

"It takes time. This case will never be resolved quickly... but I believe whatever decision the WTO makes, Taiwan and the U.S. will accept," she said.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Taiwan should be optimistic, cautious about ECFA: scholars

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) Taiwan should be optimistic but cautious about a proposed trade agreement with China with the approach of the first round of talks on the issue, with an "early harvest list" expected to hold the key to the negotiations, scholars said Monday.

After almost a year of preliminary studies and local political and economic debate, Taiwan will officially enter talks on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) Jan. 26, when delegations from Taiwan and China will hold a one-day meeting in Beijing.

"We should look at the talks with optimism because Taiwan is finally taking the first step toward the negotiations, just like other countries around the world that are seeking to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) , " said Daniel Liu, a senior researcher at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER).

The optimism should also come from both governments' strong support and determination to push for a concrete deal, which is already a breakthrough in itself, Liu said.

The first round of ECFA negotiations, dubbed a "working-level meeting of experts, " will focus on procedural matters such as the overall arrangements for the framework agreement, the naming of the pact, and how functions and responsibilities should be allocated, said the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) , Taiwan's quasi-official intermediary body authorized to handle cross-strait dialogue and exchanges in the absence of official ties.

However, there are concerns. First of all, Liu said, Taiwan has expressed on several occasions that it intends to complete the deal in the first half of 2010, while China insists on not setting a timetable for negotiations.

Second, Taiwan and China have not been able to discuss an "early harvest list" that will designate a wide range of products that will enjoy lowered or zero tariffs immediately.

Anti-ECFA industries oppose the deal not because of ideology but because "it's a life and death thing for them, " Liu went on, saying that the government should reassure those businesses that they will be protected and compensated and give them as much time as possible to prepare for the impact.

Items that will reportedly appear on China's list include products such as auto parts, textiles, steel and cereal, while Taiwan wants to place petrochemical products on its list.

The "early harvest list" discussion could be difficult and will be a long process, Liu said, adding that some give-and-take will be necessary during the negotiation process.

While the Taiwanese government has pledged that it will not lift an existing import ban on 834 agriculture products and will not allow Chinese laborers to work in Taiwan, China's Ministry of Commerce claimed last week that Taiwan has failed to fulfill its obligations as a World Trade Organization (WTO) member because of its import ban on Chinese agricultural and industrial products.

"To fulfill the responsibility of the so-called `normalization, ' as China calls, it will be a heavy burden for Taiwan, " Liu said. In order to protect local agriculture, Taiwan might have to make concessions on industrial products, he said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's tactical error of rushing the deal has put it at a disadvantage in the ECFA negotiations, said Wang To-far, a professor of economics at National Taipei University.

Because of that "fatal" error, Wang said, it will be almost impossible for the government to maintain the import ban on agricultural and industrial products.

Wang said China could make different demands to Taiwan because "mutual benefit is the key in any trade agreement... if it is not lifting the import ban on agricultural and industrial products, it will be something else."

SEF Vice Chairman and Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian will lead a 13-member Taiwanese delegation for the meeting in Beijing, while Zheng Lizhong, vice president of Beijing's intermediary Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), will head the Chinese delegation.

The Taiwanese negotiators will include Huang Chih-peng, director- general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), Lee Li-chen, chief of the Mainland Affairs Council's (MAC's) Department of Economic Affairs, and other key MOEA, MAC and SEF officials, according to the SEF.

Chuang wins in Australian Open mixed doubles, Chan eliminated

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) Chuang Chia-jung became the last Taiwan player standing in the senior level competition of the 2010 Australian Tennis Open when she and Slovakia's Filip Polasek made the mixed doubles quarterfinal after an upset win over the third-seeded U.S. pair Berthanie Mattak-Sands and Bob Bryan Monday.

Chuang and Polasek prevailed 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) in tough battle on Melbourne's Show Court 3, the same court on which Taiwan's Chan Yung-jan was knocked out of the women's doubles two hours earlier.

Chan and her Romanian partner Monica Niculescu lost 7-5, 6-3 to Lisa Raymond (USA) and Rennae Stubbs (AUS) in the third round of the women's doubles.

On Sunday, Hsieh Su-wei, who paired with China's Peng Shuai, also lost in the third round of the women's doubles, a category in which Taiwan players have had relative success in recent years.

Local fans will be looking to the juniors to keep Taiwan in play for the remainder of the competition as Huang Liang-chi and Juan Ting-fei are still going in the boys' singles and doubles and girls' singles.

Huang and Japan's fourth seeded Yasutaka Uchiyama beat Vaidik Munshaw (IND) and China's Wang Chunan 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) Monday in the junior boys' doubles first round.

Juan Ting-fei and China's Liu Min did not have a good day, as they were crushed by the third seed Tamara Curovic (SRB) and Sachie Ishizu (JPN) 6-0, 6-1 in the girls' doubles first round.

Huang, the fourth seed in the boys' singles, is scheduled to meet Australian James Duckworth in the boys' singles second round Tuesday, while Juan will meet fifth-seeded Silvia Njiric of Croatia in the girls' singles second round.

The Taiwanese players in the singles competitions didn't last long, as Lu Yen-hsun, Chan Yung-jan and Chang Kai-chen all crashed out early in the men's and women's singles.

Lu, Taiwan's top men's player who currently ranks No. 101 in the ATP men's tour, had a disappointing early exit when he lost to Louk Sorensen of Ireland 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.

Lu reached the third round in Melbourne last year, his best finish in a grand slam tournament, but this year failed to make it past the first round in the men's doubles as well.

Chan Yung-jan and Chang Kai-chen, currently ranked 85th and 94th in the WTA Tour respectively, both lost in the first round singles to higher-ranked players.

Taiwan must do homework on international organizations: scholars

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) If Taiwan wants to actively engage in international participation in the absence of United Nations membership, it has to do its homework in order to better understand how international organizations work, scholars said over the weekend.

Having been forced out of the United Nations almost 40 years ago, Taiwan has come to realize the importance of participation in international organizations, especially U.N.-affiliated agencies, as a globalization movement is taking the world by storm, said National Chengchi University professor Vincent Chen.

The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 2758 on Oct. 25, 1971 to recognize the People's Republic of China as "the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations" and expelled the representatives of the Republic of China.

"However, Taiwan still honors its responsibilities as a member of the international community and tries to make contributions even though it is not allowed into most international organizations," Chen said.

"The question is not why Taiwan should be allowed to participate in international organizations, but rather why shouldn't it, " said Chiu Ya-wen, an Assistant Research Fellow at the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI).

However, Taiwan has somehow lost its grip on how these organizations work, having been disconnected from the process for decades, Chiu said. That is why Taiwan needs to "do its homework" to better understand these international organizations, especially the UN and its affiliated agencies, she said.

"If we fail to do that, we won't know how these organizations function, what their decision-making processes are like, and what we can or cannot do in meetings, even if we gain recognition tomorrow as a UN full member," Chiu said.

Chen and Chiu are among more than a dozen scholars who have co-written a book on the UN's 15 specialized agencies.

Political issues aside, Taiwan can make a significant contribution to the international community, given the country's expertise in areas such as science and technology, medical service, public health management, and intellectual property rights (IPR) , said Hsu Chung-hsin, a law professor at National Cheng Kung University who wrote a chapter of a book on World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Taiwan made a breakthrough in its quest for active international participation last May when it attended the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer.

"As encouraging and meaningful as the WHA case was, we'd still prefer that Taiwan interact with the rest of the world as a full and permanent member of all international organizations," Chiu said.

She urged all Taiwanese officials, students and citizens to try to learn more about the fundamentals and mechanisms of international organizations so "we can be well-prepared for any positive developments."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Australian Open: Hsieh fails to make women's doubles quarterfinal

Taipei, Jan. 24 (CNA) Taiwan's hopes of shining in the 2010 Australian Tennis Open were all but dashed Sunday when fourth seed Hsieh Su-wei and China's Peng Shuai lost in straight sets and failed to advance to the women's doubles quarterfinal.

Hsieh and Peng, who reached the semifinals in the French Open last year, lost to the No. 13 seed Gisela Dulko (ARG) and Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 6-2, 6-2. However, Taiwan's Chan Yung-jan, the 2007 women's doubles finalist in Melbourne, teamed up with Monica Niculescu (ROM) to beat the Russian pair Alla Kudryavtseva and Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-4 and advance to the third round.

As Lu Yen-hsun, Chan Yung-jan and Chang Kai-chen all crashed out early in the men's and women's singles, Taiwan's hopes were once again anchored in the women's doubles, a category in which Taiwan players have had relative success in recent years.

Also on Sunday, Taiwan's junior players passed their first test as fifth seed Huang Liang-chi beat the Philippines' Francis Casey Alcantara 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the Junior Boys' singles, and Juan Ting-Fei got past Slovakia's Chantal Skamlova 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 in the opening round of the Junior Girls' singles.

Chuang Chia-jung advanced to the second round of the mixed doubles, while Hsieh Su-wei lost in the first round Saturday.

Chuang, paired with Slovakia's Filip Polasek, beat Liezel Huber (USA) and Ross Hutchins (GBR) 6-2, 6-4. Hsieh and Brazil's Bruno Soares lost to the U.S.' Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Bob Bryan 6-2, 4-6, 10-7 in three sets.

Chan and Niculescu are scheduled to meet sixth seed Lisa Raymond (USA) and Rennae Stubbs (AUS) Monday in the third round, while Chuang and Polasek will take on Mattek-Sands and Bryan in the mixed doubles second round. Juan and Huang will also play in the junior girls' and boys' doubles respectively.

Lu, Taiwan's top men's player who currently ranks No. 101 in the ATP men's tour, had a disappointing early exit when he lost to Louk Sorensen of Ireland 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round. Lu reaching the third round in Melbourne last year, his best finish in a grand slam tournament, but this year failed to make it past the first round in the men's doubles as well.

Chan Yung-jan and Chang Kai-chen, currently ranked 85th and 94th in the WTA Tour respectively, both lost in the first round singles to higher-ranked players.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taiwan must handle any beef talks with Canada carefully: MOFA

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Taiwan would have to carefully handle any negotiations with Canada on lifting a ban on Canadian beef imports, as the controversy over U.S. beef is still raging, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.

Canada would welcome a reopening of the Taiwan market to Canadian beef, but because of the political storm over U.S. beef imports, Canada is probably hesitant to discuss the issue right now, said Harry Tseng, Director-General of MOFA's Department of North American Affairs.

Canada has not brought up the beef issue recently, Tseng said in response to a question from the media, adding that on the basis of the recent amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, Taiwan would love to sit down with Canada to talk about the issue.

However, a risk assessment would have to be carried out before any such negotiations, he said. The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei declined to comment on the issue. In comparison with the U.S. beef trade issue, Tseng said, the reopening of the Taiwan market to Canadian beef imports would be a "relatively simpler issue" because the bilateral discussions would involve only bone-in beef. Ground beef and offal -- beef parts that are considered at risk of spreading bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease -- would not be included, he added.

Taiwan reopened its market to Canadian boneless beef in June 2007, almost four years after it imposed a ban when the first case of mad cow disease was reported in Canada.

Currently import of Canadian boneless beef from cattle aged under 30 months is allowed in Taiwan.

According to the Australian Trade Commission, Australia holds the biggest market share of 46 percent in Taiwan for beef and beef products, while New Zealand ranks second with 27 percent, the U.S. third with 17 percent, and Canada fourth with 2 percent.

The Canadian beef import issue is separate from Taiwan's request for visa-free entry of its citizens to Canada, Tseng said, adding that the negotiations will be parallel.

David Lee, Taiwan's representative to Canada, "has been working tirelessly on the visa-waiver program, which is now in the final phase of discussion," Tseng said.

"Hopefully there will be some good news soon," he said.

Also on Thursday, Reuters reported that four senior U.S. Congressmen -- Charles Rangel, Sander Levin, Dave Camp and Kevin Brady -- said in a letter to U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk that the U.S. should not resume trade and investment talks with Taiwan unless Taiwan reverses its ban on certain U.S. beef products.

"We do not believe that the United States should move forward with these talks until Taiwan is once again compliant with its obligations," the congressmen said in the letter.

"Our president was right to suspend the trade and investment framework (TIFA) talks, and I don't see how those could resume until this matter is resolved," Camp said in a separate statement.

Taiwan's legislature voted earlier this month to abrogate a beef agreement reached with the U.S. last year and resume a partial ban on U.S. beef, amid a political controversy in which the opposition accused the administration of ignoring the public's health.

MOFA has asked Taiwan's representative to the U.S. to talk to the lawmakers, especially Rangel who has visited Taiwan almost 30 times, Tseng said.

The banned ground beef and offal would account for only 2 percent of total U.S. beef imports, he noted.

Noting that the first batch of U.S. bone-in beef has arrived in Taiwan, Tseng said the beef market is expected to gradually settle down. Taiwan hopes that the controversy will ease after U.S. beef importers begin to see profits, he added.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Taiwan contemplating Haiti debt relief decision

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) Taiwan is still studying how to offer its Caribbean ally Haiti debt relief or cancellation and will keep sending medical teams to help the quake-ravaged country, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman said Wednesday.

The ministry is studying whether and how to offer debt consolidation, debt relief or debt cancellation to Haiti, but has not come up with any timetable, said MOFA spokesman James Chang.

President Ma Ying-jeou responded a day earlier to a call from the Paris Club to all Haiti's creditors to forgive its debts following a magnitude-7 earthquake that devastated the country last week, asking MOFA to study how to help Haiti.

However, he noted that the creditors of debts Haiti owes to Taiwan are local banks rather than the government.

The Paris Club is an informal group of financial officials from 19 of the world's richest countries that provides financial services to indebted countries and their creditors. Debtors are often recommended by the International Monetary Fund after alternative solutions have failed.

A report from British newspaper the Guardian commented that Taiwan and Venezuela -- Haiti's main bilateral creditors -- have come under "intensifying pressure" to cancel the impoverished country's debts.

The magazine Foreign Policy and the Guardian both reported on their Web sites that Haiti owes US$167 million to Venezuela and US$91 million to Taiwan. The MOFA declined to confirm either report.

The Paris Club said Haiti's public external debt totaled US$1.885 billion at the end of September 2008.

Observers said Taiwan's national credit is so high that it has to carefully contemplate debt relief to foreign countries. They also mentioned a possible domino effect, fearing that other debtors of Taiwan will request debt relief if Taiwan agrees to offer debt relief to Haiti.

The Economist magazine has estimated that Taiwan's national debt is expected to reach US$137.4 billion, equivalent to 39 percent of its gross national product, in 2010, and the Ministry of Finance estimated last September that the national debt will surpass US$43.9 billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, Taiwan will keep sending teams to help with post-disaster work, Chang said. At present, there are two local medical teams -- a 33-member team from the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and a 60-member team from the Taiwanroot Medical Peace Corps -- in Haiti.

A team of 16 members from Taiwan's International Health Action and the Ministry of National Defense is also scheduled to leave for Haiti Jan. 26.

The non-profit International Cooperation and Development Fund will also send a medical team Feb. 6, Chang went on.

Meanwhile, a search and rescue team that rescued two men in Haiti is scheduled to arrive home in Taipei Jan. 22.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has sent a letter praising Taiwan's relief efforts, saying that the teams "have been doing a great job, " Chang said.

LA Dodgers sign Taiwanese pitcher Kuo Hong-Chih to one-year deal

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed Taiwanese pitcher Kuo Hong-Chih to a one-year deal that will pay him US$975,000 in 2010, the Major League Baseball club's Web site reported Wednesday.

The signing means the left-handed reliever, who earned US$437,000 last season, will not have to go through salary arbitration proceedings.

Kuo's contract also includes an incentive clause for total appearances. His 55th and 60th appearances would each earn him an additional US$25,000 and his 65th and 70th appearances would each earn him an extra US$50,000.

Kuo appeared in 35 games and pitched 30 innings in 2009, mostly in a set-up role, and went 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA.

The 28-year-old left-hander has compiled a 9-13 record and 3.77 ERA in his five seasons with the Dodgers.

Though he has been plagued by arm injuries throughout his career, Kuo seems to have finally earned the trust of manager Joe Torre in the Dodgers' bullpen.

Kuo was among six Dodgers to file for salary arbitration Jan. 15.

Russell Martin, James Loney and George Sherrill also signed one-year deals with the Dodgers to avoid arbitration. Outfielder Andre Ethier and closer Jonathan Broxton are the two Dodgers eligible for arbitration who have yet to sign.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MAC deputy answers cross-strait trade pact criticism

Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) A proposed cross-Taiwan Strait trade pact will be a "gradual opening" that minimizes the damage and the government firmly believes that the pact provides more benefits than disadvantages, a Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) official said Tuesday.

Any policy will have its negative impact, but if the government is convinced that the policy will provide more benefits, the policy is worth trying, said Kao Charng, MAC deputy chairman.

An Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China will definitely have its positive and negative impacts on local industries and the government will implement a series of measures to compensate disadvantaged sectors and businesses following the signing of the agreement, Kao told around 100 exporters and importers from Taipei City in a keynote speech.

Most ECFA criticism, which focuses on the possible damage to local small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) , job losses and an influx of Chinese products and labor are "out of context, " according to Kao.

Underlining the importance of Taiwan embracing the global trend of trade liberalization and open markets, Kao said that Taiwan will try to sign free trade agreements with other countries even if it does not sign the ECFA with China.

The ECFA is not a free trade agreement, under which the signatories are required to fully open their markets after the agreement takes effect, he said, adding that Taiwan and China have agreed in principle to an approach of "gradual opening" of their markets.

That means for both sides that markets of those sectors listed on an "early harvest" list will be open to each other, while the remaining sectors will be protected until future negotiations, Kao said.

Therefore, he went on, an import ban of more than 800 Chinese agricultural products will not be lifted, nor will Chinese laborers be allowed to work in Taiwan.

The government has not ignored the fact that certain SMEs will suffer from the pact, and it has planned measures to protect those who suffer, with the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) allocating a budget of NT$95 billion over 10 years for compensation for disadvantaged industries and workers who lose their jobs, Kao said.

The opposition has accused the government of failing to explain to the public the details about the agreement and Kao acknowledged this, but said that "the reason why the ECFA is hard to explain is because it is still under study and the bilateral negotiation has not even started yet." Kao described the ECFA as a "framework" that focuses on the principles of market opening and tariff elimination, similar to an index of a book with the contents waiting to be filled out.

The government is concerned about Taiwanese businesses' capacity to withstand a full opening and is determined to open its market "phase by phase" to give local businesses more time to prepare for an open market, he said.

The negotiation process of the ECFA is similar to that of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China talks, Kao went on.

It took two years for ASEAN and China to sign their agreement and four years to sign the service agreement after the signing of a framework agreement in 2002.

Instead of sitting and watching Taiwan's competitors, such as South Korea, Japan and Singapore, gain competitive edges with their aggressive approaches in the regional economic integration, the government still believes it should keep going forward, Kao said.

"We cannot afford to close the door and do nothing simply because some SMEs that focus on domestic markets will suffer from Taiwan's participation in the regional integration, " he said.

Conference to push for EU visa-waiver program

Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) An international conference will be held to brief European officials on Taiwan's push for an European visa-waiver program, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday.

The conference is being organized to help officials from the European Union (EU) understand more about the process of passport issuance and management in Taiwan as well as the issuance of electronic passports, said Chiu Jong-jen, director-general of MOFA's Department of European Affairs.

"We would like to say that an EU visa-waiver program for Taiwan poses no risk at all, " Chiu said.

Visa officers from countries which have offered visa-free treatment to Taiwan, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand, will attend the Feb. 8 conference, Chiu said.

The conference will be titled "Towards Broader Visa Liberalization for Taiwan Passport Holders: A Workshop." Hungarian parliamentarian Zsolt Nemeth said during his visit to Taiwan last week that Hungary, which will take over EU's rotating presidency in January 2011, supports granting visa-free treatment to Taiwanese passport holders.

Taiwan has worked toward a Schengen visa-free program for years as well as similar visa-waiver treatment in the U.S. and Canada.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ECFA will intensify left-right social issue: scholar

Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) The proposed trade pact between Taiwan and China will only benefit certain people and corporates and intensify a left-right economic spectrum, a scholar told the Central News Agency in an interview.

The pact, known as Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) , "is not an independence-unification issue but a left-right economic social issue with a core concern of wealth re-distribution, " said Lo Chih-cheng, a political scientist at Soochow University.

"A predicted gross domestic product (GDP) growth after the agreement takes effect may be impressive and appealing on the surface. However, do all those numbers and indexes announced by the government reflect people's concerns?" Lo asked.

The ECFA, which Taiwan government intends to sign with China to relax trade and financial regulations in the first half of 2010, is expected to increase Taiwan's GDP by 1.72 percent, Bureau of Foreign Trade Director-General Huang Chih-peng said in October, 2009.

Lo said that the ECFA, in essence a free trade agreement, will only benefit certain sectors and large corporates while damaging the small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) , the backbone of Taiwan's economy, and the working class.

"Let's say a large corporate secures a NT$10 billion profit and the SMEs lose NT$90 millions because of the cross-Taiwan Strait agreement. On paper, Taiwan economy grows, but those NT$90 millions are 'survival money' for those SMEs and thousands of families behind them, " he said.

The controversial agreement reflects a fact and a concern that, while large corporates are capable of lobbying and influencing the government policies, SMEs and ordinary people are left out in the cold when "the rich gets richer and the poor get poorer", Lo said.

And that's why Lo thinks it's a left-right issue rather than a ruling Kuomintang (KMT) vs. the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) issue or an independence-unification issue.

"It's all about choice-making. A government is obliged to pursue the interests for the majority of people, " he added.

Lo saw some contradictory facts and mistakes in Taiwan's negotiations process. While the Taiwan government pointed out that the agreement is more of a framework with actual contents waiting to be made in the future and the DPP opposed for the sake of opposition, he said, it announced concrete GDP growth prediction at the same time.

And Taiwan has said on several occasions that it is eager to complete the deal in the first half of 2010, which is against the basic rule of negotiations, he said.

"When you set a timetable before the negotiations, you tie your own hands at the back and put yourself in a disadvantage, " he said.

He said that Taiwan government also needs to thoroughly explain different negotiations scenarios to the public and let people know what sacrifice they might have to make in order to secure the benefits.

The government said Taiwan is in danger of being marginalized and hollowed out after the ASEAN-China (Association of South East Asian Nations-China) free trade arrangement went into effect because Taiwan-made product will be imposed with higher tariffs in the integrated region.

Lo denounced the argument, saying that Taiwan's biggest trade competitor is South Korea, not ASEAN countries and the government "intentionally magnify the impact of the ASEAN-China free trade agreement." On the contrary, not only Taiwan-made products will not enjoy easier access to the ASEAN but more local businesses will relocate to China, he said.

An ECFA can neither solve Taiwan's unemployment and capital outflow nor attract Taiwanese businessmen to re-invest in Taiwan, he said, unless Taiwan is equipped with fine-tuned policy on labor, industrial parks, environment protection and tax incentives.

It is wrong to place the agreement with China as the priority of Taiwan's national development strategy. Taiwan needs to have an alternative plan, which means industry upgrade and establish pioneering sectors, Lo said.

"There's not one country I know of that formulates its national policy on outbound investment. What Taiwan needs to do is to attract foreign directive investment and create jobs, " Lo said.

It's the government's responsibility to identify what those sectors are and play a major role in fostering their development, he said.

"Businessmen will always go for profit and short-term goals, and there's nothing wrong with that. But a government has to look at this in a long-term perspective, " Lo said.

There's always a possibility that China is engaged in the negotiations for more than economic benefits, Lo noted, saying that China will still eye on an eventual goal of political gain.

Paris Club seeks help from Taiwan to cancel Haiti's debt

Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) The Paris Club has approached Taiwan for help in canceling Haiti's international debt after the Caribbean country was ravaged by a magnitude 7 earthquake last week, sources familiar with the case told the Central News Agency Monday.

France, which chairs the group of financial officials from 19 wealthy countries that provides services such as debt relief and debt cancellation to indebted countries, has contacted Taiwan about the matter, sources said, noting that the debt that Haiti owes to Taiwan is usually donations in the forms of various collaboration programs.

According to a media report, Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economy, industry and employment, said last Friday she has contacted members of the Paris Club to discuss speeding up debt relief for Haiti.

Lagarde said she was also asking Taiwan and Venezuela, non-Paris Club members but major creditors of Haiti, to help in the debt relief effort.

"I am asking two other states, Taiwan and Venezuela... to also envisage the cancellation of their debt to Haiti... as a collective effort. This would be a good step for this country," Lagarde said.

The club said on its Web site that it had decided to cancel US$62.73 million of the country's debt in July 2009, and is committed on a bilateral and voluntary basis to cancel an additional US$152 million.

A spokesman of Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) declined to comment on the report but said the government is planning to further review the contents and details of various bilateral cooperation programs with the Haitian government.

Civic groups and nongovernmental organizations in Taiwan have mobilized a donation effort that has collected 84 tons of relief meterial, including food, water, medical supplies and lighting equipment, worth over NT$12 million.

Seventy tons of these humanitarian supplies, the first shipment of Taiwan's nongovernmental relief supplies to Haiti, were scheduled to be shipped to Dominican Republic by a FedEx air cargo charter at 8:30 p.m. Monday.

On Sunday, Taiwan's first search and rescue team, which arrived in the disaster zone by land after being stuck in the Dominican Republic because of air traffic congestion in Port-au-Prince, successfully rescued a survivor on the second day of its operations.

The survivor was a Haitian security guard at the United Nations Peecekeeping Force's police dormitory who had been buried under the rubble for five days before being rescued.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Taiwan's trade agreement, unemployment solutions up for debate

Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Labor rights activists and observers agree that the signing of a trade agreement between Taiwan and China will only speed up Taiwan's capital outflow, but their opinions differ on the solution for salvaging Taiwan's unemployment.

A proposed cross-Taiwan Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) "would only speed up outflow of domestic capital and the exodus of local businesses and it will not solve the unemployment problem, " said William Kao, Victims of Investment in China Association (VICA) President William Kao said Saturday.

The core problem of Taiwan's shriveled economy is not the signing of an ECFA but the fact that Taiwanese businesses have lost their competitive edge on the global stage, Kao argued, saying that Taiwanese businessmen have no choice but to move their businesses to China or other countries.

Moreover, Kao said, China is not trustworthy and many Taiwanese businessmen have been stripped of their property and assets in China by the Chinese government by "every method you could imagine." Kao himself is one of them. A group of unidentified men looted his factory in China in 1999. After calling for help from the Chinese government to no avail for two years, he had to leave China in 2001.

According to the government, the signing of an ECFA will create 260,000 jobs, although the opposition predicts there could be as many as 890,000 jobs lost after an ECFA is signed, he said.

"The real answer is probably something in between, " he went on.

With 600,000 people out of work, Kao said, unemployment is the most serious issue in Taiwan. Unless the government delinks the minimum wage of foreign workers and domestic workers, he said, there will be no solution to cut the jobless rate.

"A wrong foreign labor policy in 1992 is the root cause of all these problems, " he said.

Once the minimum wage of foreign workers is lowered and local businesses are allowed to hire as many as 60 percent foreign workers in their workforce, Taiwanese companies will be willing to move back to Taiwan, given China's inconsistent policy, investment environment and worsening social order, Kao said.

"That will create more jobs for local workers, " he said.

"I agree that the ECFA will not solve the unemployment problem, but I find it hard to agree with Kao's theory, " Taiwan Labor Front Secretary-General Sun Yu-lien said.

The ECFA is basically a free trade agreement that will only benefit specific sectors or companies, while most small- and medium- sized businesses will suffer, he said.

"The only thing left in Taiwan will be the lower-level service sector operating solely for domestic demand, just like what happened in Hong Kong after it signed its Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with China, " he said.

Sun said Kao's theory has been brought up by some legislators before, but was not implemented in the previous administration or the current government.

"It's obviously not in line with mainstream opinion, " he said.

Sun expressed opposition to the theory because it does not respect labor rights, a universal value, and is against Taiwan's foreign labor policy that regards foreign labor hiring as "supplementary." "If we agree with the principle of `equal pay for equal work'... if we agree that men and women should receive the same pay for equal work, then why should foreign workers be different?" he asked.

If the minimum wages of foreign and domestic workers are delinked, Sun said it will lead to lower overall payment levels eventually because employers would rather hire cheaper foreigners than local workers.

Taiwan baseballer looks forward to new year in Japanese league

Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Taiwanese baseballer Lin Wei-chu flew back to Osaka, Japan Friday, hoping to shake off an up-and-down 2009 season and win a starting outfielder position with Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in the new season.

Lin, 31, said his approach the new season would be "back to square one" after a 2009 season plagued by problematic adjustments to a new manager and a slump.

"My goal for the new season will be winning the starting position either in right field or center field, and hitting 15 homeruns, " he said. If he makes the starting list, he said, he has full confidence to duplicate a successful year like 2007.

"I think I rushed it a little bit last year trying to adjust to a new manager and ended up with a sub-par performance, " he said.

Taiwanese baseball is known to produce quality pitchers, as most players signed by foreign leagues are pitchers, such as former Yankee Wang Chien-ming. Lin, however, is one of the few overseas Taiwanese players who does not make a living on the mound.

He also took the road less traveled. Unlike most players who chase their American dream in the U.S. Major League, he chose Japan at an early age.

Arriving in Yanagawa High School, Fukuoka, Japan, as an 18-year-old high schooler in 1997, Lin quickly established his reputation as a powerful left-handed power hitter. He later enrolled in Kinki University and was selected at No. 7 by Hanshin in the 2002 draft.

While Lin blasted a homerun in his first at-bat with the Hanshin minor league team and made debut in the big league in 2004, it was not until 2007 that he became a regular starter. He turned in the best performance that year with a .292 batting average and 15 homeruns in 115 games.

In 2009, Lin appeared in only 56 games, registering a. 208 batting average and only six homeruns, mostly as a pinch hitter.

Things will be better in the upcoming season, he said, as he will be able to participate the full spring training after missing the camp last year when he joined the Taiwanese national team for the World Baseball Classic.

Lin said he did not think last season was a lost year for him.

Moreover, he said he finally felt comfortable with his right shoulder, which was surgically repaired two years ago.

"I was just in a slump, but I was pretty much injury-free, which means I could at least work myself out of the slump and spend more time thinking. That is not the case when you are injured and cannot even practice, " he said.

Despite living in Japan for 12 years, Lin said Taiwan is always home for him.

"I am still very Taiwanese, and I'm proud of being Taiwanese. My eyes always light up whenever my teammates and friends in Japan talk about Taiwan, " he said, adding that he would represent Taiwan in international competitions in a heartbeat if invited and available.

Lin lamented the game-fixing scandal that has brought Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) into such disrepute.

"The most negative impact of the scandal is not on the league. It is how the scandal could shatter every boy's dream of playing professional baseball in Taiwan, " he said.

Known as a hard worker, Lin still practiced every day during his two-week stay in Taiwan and said he feels strange if he does not practice because he assumes everyone else practices.

It is his diligence, dedication and the way he carries himself that make local fans appreciate Lin in a special way compared to other players.

Nevertheless, Lin has never lost his humility.

"I'm not famous at all. When I practiced on a baseball field in Taichung, it seemed nobody knew who I was, " he laughed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Former Japanese baseball ace to play in Taiwan

    Taipei,  Jan. 14 (CNA)  Former Japanese professional baseball ace Shingo  Takatsu,  who has had more than 300 saves  in his illustrious career,   will  sign  with  the  Sinon  Bulls  of  Taiwan's   Chinese
Professional Baseball League (CPBL), Sinon announced Thursday.

    Takatsu  will report to the Bulls Feb.  1 in Zuoying,  Kaohsiung, where the team is holding its spring training and is expected to fill in as top closer,  Sinon's weakest rotation spot, said Liu Cih-sheng,
the Bulls' deputy general manager.

    The right-hander  will be the highest-paid  Japanese player Sinon had signed  in recent years,  Liu said.  The 41-year-old  veteran  is reportedly to be paid US$13,000 per month.
    Sinon finished last in the four-team CPBL in the 2009 season with 57 wins, 59 losses and three draws.
    Known by the nickname  "Mr.  Zero" for not giving up a single run in 11 Japan Series championship  games,  Takatsu has played in Japan, the U.S.  Major League and Korea throughout his 18-year career,  most notably  with Yakult  Swallows  of the Nippon  Professional  Baseball

    Takatsu  turned down Sinon's  offer last year and signed with the Major League's  Chicago  White Sox,  Liu said.  Takatsu  was released later and went on to spend the 2009 season in Korea.

Taiwan offers more donations to quake-struck Haiti

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) The Taiwanese government has offered another US$300,000 donation to its Caribbean ally Haiti, which was hit by a magnitude-7.0 quake, and is trying to confirm the fate of a Taiwanese girl pronounced dead in the disaster, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday.

Taiwan is offering the US$300,000 to add to the US$200,000 donation announced a day earlier shortly after the massive earthquake struck, said MOFA spokesman James Chang.

A government medical team and Taiwan International Health Action (IHA), a group of volunteer medical experts, were also set to leave for Haiti for medical relief and assistance, Chang said.

The girl, the daughter of a Taiwanese engineer working in Haiti, was reported to have been killed in the quake but the MOFA later found out that the information might have been incorrect.

Chang said the Republic of China Embassy staff had managed to get in touch with most of the other Taiwanese nationals known to be in Haiti, all of whom are safe and in good shape.

There are presently more than 30 Taiwanese nationals in Haiti, including embassy and technical mission staff, employees of Taiwan's Overseas Engineering and Construction Co. (OECC) and individual businessmen.

According to media reports, a Taiwanese backpacker was also reported to be missing and Chang said the MOFA is looking into the matter.

Taiwan urges China to respect press, Internet freedom

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) , Taiwan's top China policy authority, has urged China to respect press and Internet freedom in the wake of Internet search engine giant Google's possible pullout from China, an MAC spokesman said Thursday.

"There is still a lot of room for improvement for China over its press and Internet freedom. The MAC would like to urge China to respect freedom of the Internet and journalism, " said MAC Vice Chairman Liu Te-hsun.

China must be feeling the heat from the international community over the issue as well, Liu said one day after Google threatened to shut down and quit China, citing cyber attacks and hackers' access to some human rights activists' e-mail accounts.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded an explanation from Beijing.

Media exchanges between Taiwan and China have been progressing smoothly recently, but the exchanges should base on the respect for press freedom and the free flow of information, Liu said.

With its "Great Fire Wall" technology, China imposes Internet censorship on search results and also demands that foreign Internet companies such as Google and Microsoft filter sensitive topics and keywords in search results.

China still blocks some Taiwanese Web sites and international news media, although it relaxed its Internet blockage briefly during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Taiwan offers funds, sends rescue team to quake-hit Haiti (roundup)

Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) The Taiwan government has offered an immediate donation of US$200,000 to Haiti and is sending a rescue team to the Caribbean country that was hit Tuesday by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Wednesday.

A rescue team from the National Fire Agency (NFA), which consists of 23 workers and two search and rescue dogs, will take an 11: 40 p.m. China Airlines flight to Haiti via Los Angeles, Miami and the Dominican Republic, carrying 2,000 kilograms of equipment, the MOFA said in a press release.

The Taiwan government is closely monitoring the situation and will offer more donations, humanitarian aid and rescue squads to its ally if necessary, the MOFA said.

Taiwan's ambassador to Haiti was injured but was in stable condition and one Taiwanese businessman was unaccounted for after the quake hit Haiti, MOFA spokesman James Chang said.

Hsu Mien-sheng, Taiwan's ambassador to the Caribbean country, sustained a broken bone, and an embassy employee suffered a minor back injury but was in good condition, Chang said. All Taiwan nationals in Haiti are safe except for the businessman who was reported missing, he added.

With communications erratic in some regions, the MOFA is still trying to get in touch with the missing businessman, he said.

Chang said Wednesday afternoon that an inter-agency task force has been set up to coordinate relief and rescue efforts, as the Taiwan government planned to send rescue teams and humanitarian supplies to Haiti as soon as possible.

President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih have extended condolences to victims of the earthquake, Chang said.

There are currently around 30 Taiwanese nationals in Haiti, including four or five businessmen, 13 members of a technical mission and diplomats, Chang said.

The two-story building of Taiwan's embassy in Port-au-Prince was partially damaged in the quake, he added.

Mario Chouloute, Haiti's ambassador to Taiwan, told the media that Haiti is looking to Taiwan's for assistance with camping equipment, rescue teams and medical services.

The MOFA has requested Taiwan's embassy in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti, to obtain information on the damage and offer as much assistance as possible, Chang said.

Officials at the Taipei City Fire Department said that a rescue team from the city is ready to depart for Haiti whenever necessary.

Meanwhile, the MOFA is coordinating a collaborative rescue effort with several non-governmental organizations, including World Vision Taiwan, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and Dharmaa Drum Mountain Foundation.

World Vision Taiwan, which currently provides aid to 7,500 children in four regional programs in Haiti, said it is still gathering information on damage and casualties and is in close contact with the MOFA, the Red Cross Society and World Vision Haiti.

The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation said that Tzu Chi's U.S.

headquarters has set up an emergency coordination center to respond to the needs in Haiti. A meeting will be held Thursday with other humanitarian organizations to discuss how to collaborate to provide aid.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake that hit the Caribbean country at 4: 53 p.m. local time Tuesday had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered about 15 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince at a depth of only eight kilometers.

Amb. injured, one Taiwanese unaccounted for in quake-hit Haiti

Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) Taiwan's ambassador to Haiti was injured but was in stable condition and one Taiwanese businessman was unaccounted for after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman said Wednesday.

Hsu Mien-sheng, Taiwan's ambassador to the Caribbean country, sustained a broken bone and an embassy employee suffered a minor back injury, but was in good condition while all Taiwan nationals in Haiti are safe except for one businessman who was reported missing, said MOFA spokesman James Chang.

Chang said an inter-agency task force has been established to coordinate rescue effort and donations as Taiwan's government plans to send out rescue teams and humanitarian supplies as soon as possible, with the first rescue team scheduled to leave for Haiti Wednesday night.

President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih extended condolences to victims in the Caribbean ally, Chang said.

There are currently around 30 Taiwanese nationals in Haiti, including four or five businessmen, 13 members of a technical mission and diplomats, Chang said.

With communications erratic in some regions, the MOFA is still trying to get in touch with the missing businessman, he said.

The two-story building of Taiwan's Embassy in Port-au-Prince collapsed in the quake, he added.

Mario Chouloute, Haiti's Ambassador to Taiwan, told the media that Haiti is looking for Taiwan's help to provide camping equipment, rescue teams and medical assistance.

MOFA has requested Taiwan's Embassy in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti, collect information on damage and offer as much assistance as possible, Chang said.

Officials at the Taipei City Fire Department said that a rescue team from the city is ready to depart for Haiti whenever necessary to help with earthquake response efforts.

Meanwhile, World Vision Taiwan, a non-governmental organization currently providing aid for 7,500 children in four regional programs in Haiti, said it is still gathering information of damage and casualty and is in close contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Red Cross Society and World Vision Haiti.

Hungarian MP foresees breakthrough year of bilateral relations

Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) Hungary is keen to further develop its relations with Taiwan and is looking to have a breakthrough year in bilateral trade, a visiting Hungarian member of parliament told the Central News Agency.

Zsolt Nemeth, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Hungarian Parliament, said he expects Hungary to be "the first country in central Europe to sign agreements with Taiwan on avoidance of double taxation and investment protection." Nemeth, who is in the middle of a four-day visit to Taiwan along with two other Hungarian MPs, also expected Taiwan to lift its ban on the import of Hungarian agriculture products, especially poultry, this year after they were suspended following a bird flu outbreak in Europe three years ago.

Negotiations on investment protection and double taxation avoidance agreements are in their "final phase, " he said, and once they take effect, they will benefit bilateral trade and investment.

One of the heavyweights in the Hungarian main opposition Fidesz, Nemeth said his center-right party is favored to win the upcoming election in April and form a new government, which is scheduled to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union in January 2011.

Hungary will place Asia high on its foreign policy and trade agenda because it "has a growing interest in the Asia region, " which was why the foreign affairs committee visited Japan, China and South Korea last year and arranged a similar visit this year.

Taking over the EU presidency, Hungary would like to support initiatives that would bring Europe and Asia closer, said the 46-year-old Nemeth.

Among them, he said, Hungary is in favor of visa-free treatment of Taiwan passport holders because it would help boost tourism. Some 15,000 Taiwanese visited Hungary in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian government is trying to implement wide-ranging incentives and safeguards, including tax breaks and legal frameworks, to encourage foreign companies such as Taiwan's Hon Hai Group -- which Nemeth said is "doing very well in Hungary" -- to invest in the central European country.

"Basically I'm satisfied with Taiwan-Hungary relations," he said.

"But I see a broad and vast opportunity in the future so that we should keep the momentum going forward, " said Nemeth, who is visiting Taiwan for the first time.

Commenting on cross-Taiwan Strait relations, Nemeth said that if Taiwan is able to sign a trade agreement with China, it "will be an important breakthrough in your international relations" and "a milestone of cross-strait relations." Nemeth was "impressed" by the number of flights that now exist between Taiwan and China as well as the approach of Taiwan's government to relax tensions.

"These kinds of economic focuses, steps and processes are very encouraging, " he said.

"The history of EU is reflecting the same approach. We have in Europe historical tensions... but the whole idea of the EU stemmed from the idea of 'let's do business together,'" he said, referring to the European Coal and Steel Community formed in the early 1950s.

"Accepting a one-China policy is one thing, " he went on, "but trying to secure the interests of Taiwan's people is another." As for the future, "it's up to Taiwanese people to decide about their future, " he said.

The Fidesz MPs accompanying Nemeth on the trip are Arpad Gogl, a former health minister, and Andras Kelemen, who once served as deputy foreign minister.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vice president pitches advantages of propsed trade pact with China

Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) Vice President Vincent Siew on Monday reiterated the importance of a comprehensive trade agreement with China, calling it a "necessary condition" to Taiwan's participation in regional economic integration.

Addressing more than a dozen of Taiwan's representatives to East Asian countries, Siew said the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) is a "threshold" that can "open a lot more doors for Taiwan" and avoid its marginalization and hollowing out in a fast-changing global economy.

"Why is it important? Because we have many businessmen in China and we have huge investments there, " he said in a keynote speech at an East Asia working meeting organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

"Taiwan needs an opportunity to participate in regional economic integration. The last thing we want is to be left out," he said.

Siew said a trade agreement will help normalize cross-Taiwan Strait relations. It will prevent Taiwan's economy from being marginalized and ensure its integration into the global economic system, he added.

"While the ECFA is not a full solution, it is a necessary condition" for Taiwan to gain a competitive edge after the ASEAN-China (Association of South East Asia Nations-China) free trade agreement kicks in this year and to start the push for free trade agreements with other Asian countries, he said.

He urged the diplomats to step up their lobbying efforts for East Asian countries to negotiate FTAs with Taiwan.

If the FTA negotiations progress smoothly, Taiwan should be able to reintroduce the "Go South" policy that it attempted to implement 20 years ago with the aim of integrating with the ASEAN countries.

Interestingly, the national economic strategy today is similar to that of 30 years ago, said Siew, a veteran economist who has been dubbed by President Ma as "the chief strategist" in Taiwan's national economic planning.

During his tenure years ago as an official of the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Siew said that the Taiwan government wants the economy to be "globalized, liberalized and institutionalized." "It seems to me that these three aims still stand today. We're striving to achieve the exact same goals," he said.

Even the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) knows that an emerging China holds the key to Taiwan's economic success, but the DPP failed to achieve any breakthrough during its eight years in power, Siew said.

"That is why the current administration intends to be a peacemaker, not a troublemaker, " he said.

Siew noted that the biggest threats to Taiwan's economy have not changed in the last few decades. In order to prevent the industry sectors from being hollowed out and marginalized in regional and global markets, Taiwan must continue to upgrade and transform its industries, he said.

"If industries fail to upgrade, companies will either have to shut down or move out (to other countries). If we are marginalized, businesses will not be able to expand their markets," he added.

Ex-MVP baseballer denies game-fixing allegation

Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) Former Taiwan professional baseball most valuable player and Brother Elephants star hitter Chen Chih-yuan denied Monday media reports that he was involved in a game-fixing scandal that has pulled Taiwan's national pastime even further into disrepute.

Chen, 33, told a press conference that he neither threw games nor took money from bookmakers, adding that he had also never dined or met with Tsai Cheng-yi, a bookie nicknamed "Windshield Wiper, " the central figure in the league-wide scandal.

The nine-year veteran of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) showed up at the Elephants' spring training site at Lungtang in Taoyuan County for a live press conference after missing the first week of training.

"I have been having mixed feelings... All I want to do is attend spring training and be back with the team as soon as possible, " Chen said, adding that the false allegation was unfair to his family.

Tsai Rui-lin, the attorney of the CPBL Players' Association who accompanied Chen to the press conference, urged the media not to make "premature reports." Tsai noted that Chen was not even under investigation and that prosecutors had no plans to interview him.

Chen, who won CPBL Rookie of the Year in 2001 and Taiwan Series MVP in 2003, is one of the most popular players in the league.

Nineteen former and active Brother Elephants players, as well as former manager Nakagomi Shin, have been charged with game-fixing in a far-reaching scandal that permeates throughout the entire league and has left the whole of professional baseball in Taiwan in jeopardy.

Those charged include Tsao Chin-hui, Brother's ace pitcher who became the first Taiwanese pitcher in the U.S. Major League in 2002, and former Brother infielder Tsai Feng-an.

On Jan. 6, Brother's starting pitcher Liao Yu-cheng admitted taking a NT$600,000 bribe from bookmakers but denied fixing games.

Over 40 active and former players and coaches in the league have so far been implicated in the case.

Game-fixing in Taiwanese professional baseball can be traced as far back as 1995 and the present investigation is the fourth investigation launched by prosecutors since 2005.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Sanders' 20-20 highlights Taiwan basketball league's opening day

Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) American Jonathan Sanders had a rare "20-20" -- 20 points and 21 rebounds -- on the opening day of the Super Basketball League's (SBL) new season, but it was not enough to propel his team to victory, as Pure Youth Construction lost 81-71 to the Yulon Luxgen.

The game, held in the central city of Miaoli, kicked off a 105-game regular season, which observers predicted will be dominated by foreign players, as all seven teams were allowed to hire foreign players this year for the first time in the league's seven-year history.

At the same time, several big-name local players have headed to China for bigger paychecks to play in its professional basketball league.

Sanders, who is playing for his third team in three years in Taiwan, helped Pure Youth to a 43-38 halftime lead with his all-around skill.

But three-time SBL champion Yulon, which lost top player Chen Hsin-an to the Dongguan franchise in the Chinese league and is the only SBL team without a foreign player on its roster, decided to prove that foreign reinforcements weren't necessary.

The team rallied in the second half with a strong attack from behind the three-point arc to turn the game around.

Chou Shih-yuan made four of six three-point tries and scored a game-high 22 points, while Yulon limited Pure Youth to 11 points in the third quarter and extended its lead to 10 with three minutes remaining.

Yulon center Tseng Wen-ting had 11 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots and teammate Lu Cheng-ju added 15.

The SBL, established in 2003, is Taiwan's top basketball competition. Currently there are seven teams in the league.

Two-party system back after legislative by-election: scholars

Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) A two-party system is back in Taiwan's legislature after the opposition swept three by-elections Saturday, scholars said in post-election comments, and they expected that the KMT will face more challenges in the future.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won all three seats contested in Taoyuan, Taichung and Taitung counties to boost its seat total from 27 to 30. With more than one-quarter of the seats in the 113-member Legislative Yuan, the DPP caucus is capable to launch motions to amend the Constitution or recall the president.

Results of the by-election showed that the DPP has come out from under "the lingering shadow after former president Chen Shui-bian was involved in a series of graft charges, " and it further solidified Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's status within the party, said Chen Chao-jian, a political scientist at Ming Chuan University.

"The KMT can no longer do whatever it wants, " although it still has a strong majority in the legislature, Chen said.

Being shut out in the by-election will be definitely seen as a KMT setback, said Liao Da-chi, a professor of politics at National Sun Yet-sen University. From a broader perspective, however, it could be a good thing for the people of Taiwan, she suggested.

"I really don't see how the results will jeopardize the KMT, which still has more than 70 seats in the legislature. In a broader perspective, we now have more 'balance' and party competition in the legislature, which is good for the people and democracy, " Liao said.

The seats in Taichung and Taoyuan were "basically the DPP's for the taking" because those seats were vacated after the KMT electees were convicted of vote-buying," Chen said.

The DPP's Kuo Rung-tsung and Chien Chao-tung, who lost in the previous legislative elections in 2008, beat their opponents by large margins in electoral districts in Taoyuan and Taichung counties, respectively.

"All they had to do in the campaign was ask for justice, " Chen said.

The result was another blow for President Ma Ying-jeou, whose support rate has plummeted after the U.S. beef controversy and the administration's perceived mishandling of rescue and relief operations following Typhoon Morakot in August and the H1N1 vaccination campaign.

President Ma, who also serves as the KMT chairman, "will have to launch a new wave of party reforms and a cabinet reshuffle after the by-election if he wants to have good results in the upcoming elections," he said.

Four legislative by-elections will be held next month and five special municipality mayoral elections are scheduled for later this year.

Liao looked at the impact of the by-election loss in a different light, saying that "it was probably President Ma's price to pay for his effort to reform the KMT and stop the traditional vote-buying tactics of local factions." "And I think we have to give him credit for that if he's willing to take that risk, " she said.

The negative impact will not carry over to the by-elections next month, but the KMT does need to communicate better with the local factions, Liao noted, while Chen predicted another KMT loss.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Taiwan basketball league to open new season in Miaoli

Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) Taiwan's semi-professional basketball league will open its new season Sunday in the central city of Miaoli, looking to retain fans' interest in the absence of several big-name players who have opted to play in China.

The Super Basketball League (SBL) , Taiwan's top basketball grouping, will begin its 2010 season with hopes of minimizing the negative impact of losing five players to the Chinese league across the Taiwan Strait, among whom are Chen Hsin-an and Lin Chih-chieh, who were two of the league's most popular players.

"The league will suffer if we keep losing top players to China. Hopefully our government and the basketball authorities can do something about it, " said Taiwan Beer forward Ho Shou-cheng in a pre-season press conference.

In order to fill the starless void, the league decided to allow all seven teams to hire import players this year to improve the competition. In the past, only three non-playoff teams were allowed to sign foreigners.

More foreigners means a bigger challenge, said Byron Allen, a 200cm forward/center whose stellar play helped Dacin Tigers beat Taiwan Beer four games to three in a thrilling best-of-seven championship series last year.

"It will be a fun year. Let's see, " Allen said, adding that he feels Dacin players have been more focused this year and have shown great determination to defend their title.

The absence of Chen and Lin and the hiring of more imports has also created parity in the league, which is not necessarily a bad thing, said Wang Jen-da, president of the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA), Taiwan's basketball governing body.

"The suspense of not knowing the winner until the last minute... that is the beauty of sports, " said Wang, who is also Dacin's owner.

Yulon and Taiwan Beer have been dominating the league, which was established in 2003 with seven teams, with Yulon winning the first three titles from 2004-2006 and Taiwan Beer following with a repeat.

While the league receives moderate attention among high school students, the SBL always trails the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) , Taiwan's top baseball competition, in terms of fan support, averaging slightly more than 1,000 spectators per game.

Lack of quality venues in the downtown Taipei area forces the league to move its games around the island. The 105-game regular season this year will be played in Miaoli, Hsinchu, Yilan, Xinjuang and Taipei City before staging the entire playoff series in Xinjuang.

The regular season games will be played every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with top four teams advancing to the crossover best-of-five semifinal round. The 2010 SBL champion will be crowned in mid-May after a best-of-seven championship series.

U.S. office confirms PAC-3 missiles sale to Taiwan

Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) The United States' de facto embassy here - the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) - confirmed Thursday that the U.S. government has awarded contracts to defense manufacturers to build Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles for Taiwan, which were part of an arms package Washington agreed to sell to Taipei in 2008.

AIT spokesman Christopher Kavanagh said the PAC-3 missiles, which can shoot down oncoming missiles, is part of the US$6.5 billion package of arms that the former administration of President George W.

Bush had agreed to sell to Taiwan in October 2008.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced Wednesday that the contract for the missiles has been granted to Lockheed-Martin Corp.

According to the DOD Web site, Lockheed Martin Corp. was awarded on Dec. 30, 2009, a $968,727,585 firm-fixed-price contract, which included the PAC-3 air defense missile system.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

U.S. dismay over Taiwan's partial beef ban widespread

Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) The United States government and its meat industry expressed their disappointment Wednesday over Taiwan's decision to restore a partial ban on U.S. beef imports and use American beef producers as a "political football."

The U.S. State Department, U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR) , U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) , the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the U.S. Meat Export Federation (MEF) and the American Meat Institute (AMI) all expressed their disappointment over the legislature's decision to amend the Act Governing Food Sanitation.

Taiwan and the United States signed a protocol in October to allow the entry of bone-in beef and other beef products, including ground beef and offal, that had previously been banned out of concern over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

The amendment, which cleared the legislature on Tuesday, effectively bars U.S. ground beef, beef offal and other beef parts such as the skull, eyes and intestines from access to Taiwan's market.

Responding to a reporter's question, Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. State Department, said in a briefing Wednesday that the U.S. was "very disappointed" with Taiwan's decision to ban certain cuts of U.S. beef in violation of the bilateral agreement, but the U.S. remains committed to further developing its broad-ranging and positive relationship with the people of Taiwan.

Crowley noted that the U.S., as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act, will "continue to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services needed for Taiwan's self-defense." In a joint statement, the USTR and USDA reiterated that Taiwan's decision does not "have a basis in science and constitutes a unilateral violation of a bilateral agreement." "The decision by Taiwan authorities to place domestic politics over science raises serious concerns," the joint statement said.

NCBA chief economist Gregg Doud also attacked the politicization of the issue.

"This is a purely domestic political issue in Taiwan. U.S. beef producers are sick and tired of being used as a political football, " Doud said.

"In our view, the issues expressed by politicians in Taiwan have absolutely no basis in scientific fact and fly in the face of Taiwan's own risk assessment. To suggest that there are any safety concerns related to U.S. beef is outrageous, " Doud said.

The NCBA urged the Obama Administration to explore every available option to rectify this situation as soon as possible.

U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng also expressed dismay over the decision, saying that Taiwan's best scientists had determined the safety of U.S. beef through a thorough and extensive risk assessment, but the effort had been largely cast aside.

Seng acknowledged a positive development, however, saying that the recent addition of under-30-month bone-in cuts "has allowed us to grow this market to some degree." In the first 10 months of 2009, Taiwan imported US$114.3 million worth of U.S. beef, six percent more than the year-earlier period, making it the sixth biggest export market for U.S. beef.

When year-end totals are available, exports to Taiwan are expected to surpass the record of US$128 million, set in 2008, according to the U.S Meat Export Federation.

In reinstating the partial ban, Taiwan failed to live up to its obligation as a trade partner, said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle.

"It is time for the government of Taiwan to maintain trade policies that are based upon the facts surrounding U.S. beef safety and consistent with its WTO obligations, " Boyle said.

In order to to minimize the impact of the legislation, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou called a press conference hours after the announcement of its passage and downplayed the controversy as "an agricultural trade dispute." Ma expressed hope that "the impact of this dispute will be restricted to trade and will not spread to other areas, " saying that the high level of mutual trust built between Taiwan and the U.S. on security and political matters was "hard-earned" in the 19 months since he took office.

Taiwanese American Lin draws raves for U.S. college basketball play

Most sports fans would think it a joke if they were told that a Taiwanese American basketball player has led his college team to its best start in school history and become one of the most talked-about players in United States college basketball circles.

But it's no joke.

Senior guard Jeremy Lin is averaging 17.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in pacing Harvard University to an 11-3 record so far this season, the best start in the Ivy League school's basketball history, and his play is finally drawing the attention of U.S. media, which often treat Ivy League basketball as an afterthought.

Two months into the basketball season, Lin was featured on ESPN and in Time magazine, and he has been mentioned as a legitimate Ivy League Player of the Year candidate and a possible NBA draft pick next June.

He was also among 30 players on the mid-season candidate list for the prestigious John Wooden Award, whose recipient is regarded as the national player of the year.

Unaccustomed to the sudden fame and media exposure, Lin and his family have preferred to stay as low-profile as possible, Lin's father, Gie-ming Lin, told the Central News Agency in a telephone interview from his Palo Alto, California, home.

The son is living a basketball dream for the father, a basketball junkie who left Taiwan for the U.S. in 1977 and received a doctorate in computer engineering at Purdue University before settling down on the U.S. West Coast.

The elder Lin said basketball was his way to release stress after work. He played basketball with his three sons after they finished their homework and had dinner every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

Before long, Jeremy showed he had the skill and passion for the game, Gie-ming said, not only outplaying brothers Joshua and Joseph and his father but also "westerners" as well.

The young Lin led Palo Alto High School to a 32-1 record and the California state championship in his senior year in high school and ended up garnering virtually every player of the year award in northern California.

But Lin also had to endure racial discrimination against Asians on and off the basketball court and the stereotype that "Asians can't play," his father said.

That was probably why big-time basketball schools such as Stanford, located within arm's reach of Lin's house, and UCLA showed interest but never offered him a scholarship, his father believes.

Jeremy finally enrolled at Harvard, a school that has never been known for its athletic prowess, figuring that he could play Division I basketball and focus on academics at the same time in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lin's father said he never had to worry about Jeremy's ability to balance basketball and academics because his son always showed maturity in devoting enough time to both.

Lin played in relative anonymity his first three years at Harvard. He saw limited success as a freshman, averaging 4.8 points, and then improved dramatically in his sophomore year, recording 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

His breakout year came last year, when he averaged 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and was the only player in the U.S. to rank among the top 10 players in his conference in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage.

But Harvard's 14-14 record in the 2008-2009 season kept Lin under the radar. Now, with his team having gone 11-3 to start the season against non-conference opponents, including a victory over Big East school Boston College, Lin is getting noticed by outsiders.

"Some folks who haven't seen him play are probably wowed by some of the things he can do, but we aren't. That's probably the best compliment I can give him, " Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said after Lin scored 30 points, including 22 in the second half, in a 79-73 loss to Big East powerhouse UConn in December.

After the season, Jeremy will sit down with his parents and discuss the future. There will be many options and opportunities for him: playing in the NBA, playing overseas or enrolling in Harvard's MBA program.

The younger Lin will not rule out playing ball in Taiwan or representing Taiwan in international competition, but he will take his time to review his options.

"Jeremy understands Mandarin very well and took Chinese at Harvard. He speaks a little Mandarin but I believe he will pick it up quickly if he puts his mind into it, " Lin's father said.

If Lin helps Harvard win the Ivy League this year, the school will play in the NCAA Tournament in March for the first time in 64 years.

If that happens, however, he will not be able to return to Taiwan to visit his grandmother in Taipei on a planned trip with his family.

That's one trip Gie-ming would be glad to have his son miss.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

U.S. 'deeply regrets' legislature's move on beef

Taipei, Jan. 5 (CNA) The United States "deeply regrets" the Legislative Yuan's move to impose restrictions on U.S. beef products and urged the island to abide by the protocol on beef signed two months ago, a spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Tuesday.

"The United States deeply regrets the Legislative Yuan's decision to restrict U.S. beef imports and the legislature's decision to abrogate the bilateral protocol being negotiated in good faith disregard both science-based standards as well as the findings of Taiwan's own risk assessment, " AIT spokesman Christopher Kavanagh told the Central News Agency.

The legislature earlier in the day passed a controversial amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation that will ban imports of specific beef products from countries with documented mad cow disease cases over the past decade.

The legislation will effectively bar U.S. ground beef, beef offal and other beef parts such as the skull, eyes and intestines from access to Taiwan's market, in contravention of a bilateral beef trade protocol signed by the two countries in October.

"This action also undermines Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trading partner and will make it more difficult for us to conclude future agreements to expand and strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties going forward," Kavanagh said.

The spokesman described passage of the amendment as "particularly disappointing" because the United States has long been one of Taiwan's most important trade and investment partners and a strong supporter of Taiwan's participation in the global trading system, including its membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

"In light of this legacy and the continuing importance of our bilateral economic relationship, we urge Taiwan to honor its commitment and to implement the beef protocol as negotiated, " Kavanagh said.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will issue a joint statement on the issue later, according to the AIT.

Monday, January 04, 2010

U.S. senator expresses "strong disappointment" over beef issue

Taipei, Jan. 4 (CNA) In a letter to President Ma Ying-jeou, a United States senator has expressed his "strong disappointment" over Taiwan's failure to implement a U.S.-Taiwan agreement on imported U.S. bone-in beef and warned that Taiwan's credibility would suffer.

Max Baucus, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Finance Committee, said he was "frustrated" by the Legislative Yuan's plan to pass an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation that would block the importation of certain U.S. beef products.

"It would unjustifiably bar certain U.S. beef products and would abrogate the import protocol," Baucus contended.

"There appears to be a continuation of a trend in Taiwan to obstruct U.S. agricultural imports, " he wrote, stating that this "calls into question Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trading partner." The Presidential Office responded that it would continue to work with Washington to mitigate the fallout from the dispute.

"As Taiwan-U.S. relations constitutes one of the most important parts of Taiwan's foreign relations, the government will do its best to communicate with the U.S. in order to lessen the impact, " said Presidential Office spokeman Wang Yu-chi.

Traditionally, many of Taiwan's supporters in the U.S. Congress came from agricultural states, Wang said, and he noted that the government had expected the current scenario once the legislature decided to put the amendment to a vote.

President Ma has reviewed the letter, a foreign affairs official was cited as saying.

The amendment is expected to be seen by the U.S. as a violation of the beef protocol Taiwan and the U.S. signed on Oct. 22, 2009, in which Taipei agreed to lift a ban on beef products including bone-in beef, beef offal and ground beef.

Reversing the protocol, lawmakers from Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties reached a consensus on Dec. 29 on the amendment that would ban the import of beef offal and ground beef along with other cattle parts from areas affected by mad cow disease within the previous 10 years, including the United States.

The bill will be put to a final vote on Tuesday. Baucus's letter came six days after the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) accused Taiwan of "unilaterally abrogating" the protocol, and the senator reiterated Washington's expectations.

"Taiwan's own risk assessment, the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) , and numerous other studies have concluded that all U.S. beef is safe -- including ground beef, offal, and processed products," Baucus wrote.

"It is simply unacceptable that Taiwanese authorities continue to take actions that imply otherwise. I expect Taiwan to implement the import protocol in full." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Baucus is a longtime friend and supporter of Taiwan and said his letter will be taken very seriously.

Taiwan's representative office in Washington will also continue to communicate with the committee chairman on the government's efforts to resolve the issue, the ministry said.

Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has blamed the diplomatic dispute on the government's mishandling of the protocol negotiations.

"We would not have been in this situation (with the U.S.) if Ma and National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi had not failed to respect public sentiment," said DPP spokesman Tsai Chi-chang.

Tsai also urged the U.S. to respect Taiwan's democratic system, calling the amendment the result of a long and thorough legislative process which reflected the will of the Taiwanese people.