Friday, December 31, 2010

Taiwan, France sign agreement on avoidance of double taxation

Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) Taiwan and France have signed an agreement on avoidance of double taxation, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) announced separately Friday.

Michel Lu, Taiwan's representative to France, and Patrick Bonneville, director of the French representative office in Taipei, signed the agreement on Dec. 24, the MOFA said in a statement.

The agreement was screened and passed by the French Parliament on Dec. 21 and approved by Taiwan's Executive Yuan on Dec. 23 before the Christmas Eve signing, according to the MOFA and MOF statements.

France became the 20th country to sign a double taxation agreement with Taiwan.

The MOFA said the pact represented a great step forward for economic and investment relations between Taiwan and France, Taiwan's fifth largest trade partner in Europe.

The agreement is expected to be beneficial to businesses of both sides, helping to attract French investment to Taiwan as well as providing a fair tax environment for Taiwanese businesses in France, the MOF said.

According to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) , Taiwan's quasi-official trade promotion agency, French exports to Taiwan totaled 1.02 billion euros and imports from Taiwan totaled 2.16 billion euros in 2009.

More than 60 Taiwanese companies have invested in France, including mobile phone maker HTC Corp., computer manufacturers Asustek Computer Inc., BenQ Corp. and First International Computer Inc., and transportation companies such as China Airlines Ltd. and Evergreen Marine Corp.

(By Chris Wang)


Taiwanese fishing vessel feared hijacked by Somali pirates: MOFA

Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) A Taiwanese fishing boat was feared to have been hijacked by Somali pirates in waters near Madagascar off the coast of eastern Africa after having been out of contact since Dec. 25, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a press release Friday.

The Kaohsiung-based longliner Hsiuh Fu No. 1 lost contact with its Taiwanese owner after being chased by unknown vessels Dec. 25 and the MOFA said it could have been hijacked in Madagascar's exclusive economic zone, given recent extensive Somali piracy activities there.

There were 26 people on board, including the Taiwanese skipper, as well as 12 Chinese and 13 Vietnamese crewmen, according to the Council of Agriculture's Fishery Agency.

The MOFA launched an emergency mission upon learning about the vessel's disappearance, instructing Taiwan's representative office in Cape Town, South Africa to seek assistance from the government of Madagascar as well as contacting the Malaysia-based International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center, the ministry said in the press release.

The maritime watchdog Ecoterra International said on its website that the Shiuh Fu No. 1, which is licensed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to fish in the waters, had been hijacked and that "on Dec. 28 the vessel maintained a strange, patrol-like pattern along Latitude 52 on the northeastern side of Madagascar."

The European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia reported that there are "strong indications that FV Shiuh Fu No. 1 has been pirated" and the conditions of the crew and the vessel are unknown.

According to the EU NAVFOR, there are 26 vessels and 613 hostages being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J 

Year-end symposium reviews politics, economy

Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) The signing of a historic trade pact with China and fierce competition in the five special municipality elections were the most significant developments in Taiwan this year, scholars said in a year-end symposium Friday in which they also predicted a tumultuous year ahead.

"The past year has been more about fear than pain for Taiwan. However, 2011 will be a troublesome year, " political pundit Nanfang Shuo said in the symposium organized by the Taiwan Competitiveness Forum to examine the domestic political and economic developments in 2010 and preview the coming year.

Taiwan's economy in 2010 has shown a strong recovery from the financial crisis that began in 2008, Nanfang said, but the rebound will not be as robust in 2011 because the global economy is expected to slow.

Politically, the atmosphere of cross-Taiwan Strait exchanges is expected to cool off in 2011 as Taiwan will be embroiled in a campaign year ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he said, adding that China will also try to engage in dialogue with the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The exchanges are expected to slow down because President Ma Ying-jeou, who is expected to seek re-election, "is always more cautious and tends to appeal to the opposition electorate more during the campaign season, " according to Nanfang.

The scholars lauded the June signing of the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China -- designed to liberalize cross-strait trade ties -- as the biggest breakthrough in Taiwan-China relations of the past six decades.

While legislator Lo Shu-lei of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) warned that pinning Taiwan's economic hopes solely on China could be dangerous and that the long-term effects of the ECFA remain unknown, George Tsai, a political scientist at Chinese Culture University, said Taiwan's trade interdependence on China could also be "healthy" because China will have to have second thoughts on military action against Taiwan.

Taiwan also needs to recognize that its trade relations with China "will go from partnership to competition" because several strategic industries on both sides overlap with each other, he said.

On domestic political issues, the streamlining of government agencies from 37 to 29 will begin 12 months from now and the creation of the four new special municipalities -- bringing to five the total number in the country -- is expected to solidify the system of two levels of government in Taiwan, said Thomas Peng, an associate professor at National Taiwan University.

"The measures, if successful, are expected to improve administration efficiency, " said Peng.

Former DPP Legislator Lin Cho-shui questioned whether the five municipalities will be able to function as "regional hubs" to boost the economy in their areas, saying that the design of the system is purely politically motivated without sufficient deliberation, because the five cities pale in comparison with true mega cities like Shanghai and Tokyo.

Looking at the coming year, the scholars agreed that the increasing wealth gap, the transformation of Taiwan's economy and the continued exodus of local manufacturing industries will be among the issues at the top of the government's agenda in 2011. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Scholars predict China, DPP engagement in 2011

Taipei, Dec. 25 (CNA) China will talk more about the "1992 consensus" than the one China principle, while Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will seek dialogue with China without giving up its pro-independence stance in 2011, scholars predicted Saturday.

"China is expected to maintain its support of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and President Ma Ying-jeou. At the same time, it will launch dialogue with the DPP as a hedging strategy, " Lai I-chung, a researcher of the Taiwan Thinktank, said in a symposium organized by the pro-independence Taiwan New Century Foundation.

China is likely to talk more about the "1992 consensus" and anti-Taiwan independence in the coming year rather than its long-standing one China principle, Lai said, because it does not want to jeopardize President Ma Ying-jeou's re-election bid in 2012 with a hawkish position.

The DPP, meanwhile, is expected to show pragmatism in its new China policy, which has not yet been formulated, in order to move to a more centrist position for the 2012 presidential election, according to Lai.

Lai forecast that the DPP, under the leadership of Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, will present its new China policy based on a 1999 resolution stating that the DPP upholds that Taiwan is an independent country named the Republic of China.

The party will likely highlight the risk management of cross-Taiwan Strait economic exchanges and seek dialogue with China without prerequisites, he said, adding that China will also seek to engage the DPP.

But the engagement will be confined to scholarly exchanges rather than a party-to-party dialogue, since the DPP still advocates Taiwan independence, he said.

Yan Jiann-fa, a professor at Ching Yun University who served in the former DPP government, said the DPP is going through a transformation period, in particular in its China policy.

Citing a public opinion poll conducted by Global Views magazine in May 2009 revealing that 48.5 percent of the respondents favored eventual independence over 16.2 percent who preferred eventual unification, Yang said the DPP had realized a change of direction is needed for the party.

While the independence-unification issue has always been the most sensitive and critical issue in Taiwan's political debates, neither Taiwan nor China are in a hurry to touch upon the issue, Yan said.

"Beijing is not in a hurry to unify with Taiwan as long as Taiwan does not `stray too far, ' because it has its own domestic and exterior problems to handle, " he said.

Yan added that it would be better for Taiwan to focus on solving more urgent domestic issues at present, such as decreasing the wealth gap and improving national spatial planning, both of which affect the everyday lives of the people. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Friday, December 24, 2010

Five special municipalities to begin operation

Taipei, Dec. 24 (CNA) Five special municipalities across Taiwan with 60 percent of the country's population will begin operations Saturday, kicking off a new phase in Taiwan's administrative history.

Taipei, Xinbei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung will begin operating as mega cities almost one month after the residents of the five municipalities chose their mayors in high profile elections on Nov. 27.

In addition to Taipei City and Xinbei City, the former Taipei County, the other three cities were expanded through a merger of two administrative districts.

Greater Taichung City is the result of a merger of Taichung City and Taichung County; Tainan a merger of Tainan City and Tainan County; and Kaohsiung a merger of Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County.

According to Interior Minister Jiang Yi-huah, the change is aimed at making the five mega cities "spearheads of Taiwan's regional development" and "cores of the three living areas of northern, central and southern Taiwan."

The new system is not likely to affect the everyday life of the 13.7 million residents in the five cities, but integrating local governments and administrative branches are likely to present a big challenge in the cities where mergers took place.

Tainan and Kaohsiung both split their agencies into two parts to keep them in their original office buildings while Taichung City opted for three office buildings in different parts of its administrative area.

Effective Saturday, townships and county-administered cities will also be renamed "districts" and villages will be renamed "wards." District chiefs will be appointed by mayors rather than being elected, as was previously the case.

Township councils will be disbanded, which means thousands of township and city councilmen have lost their jobs.

Newly elected mayors have focused on the financial aspects of the new city governments. Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu publicly expressed concerns that the city would be in financial trouble if budget allocating procedures and tax regulations were not reformed.

Xinbei City faced a different problem -- trying to figure out what to call itself in English.

Mayor Eric Liluan Chu wanted to change the new city's name to "New Taipei City," because Xinbei means "new Taipei" in Chinese.

But the move was blocked by the Ministry of the Interior for now, with Deputy Interior Minister Chien Tai-lang saying the ministry would discuss the proposal with Chu at a later date. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Taiwan basketball league to open 2010-11 season

Taipei, Dec. 23 (CNA) Taiwan's semi-professional basketball league will open its new season Saturday in suburban Taipei, with defending champion Yulon Luxgen eyeing its fifth title in the team's history.

Yulon is scheduled to meet Dacin Tigers Dec. 25 in a rematch of last season's final to unveil the 2010-11 season of the Super Basketball League (SBL), Taiwan's top basketball competition.

Perennial powerhouse Yulon, which won three straight titles from 2003-2006, defeated Dacin four games to two in the best-of-seven SBL Finals in May to win its fourth crown.

However, the team lost its starting point guard Lee Hsueh-lin, who signed with the Chinese Basketball Association's (CBA's) Beijing, and it is in jeopardy of losing its starting center Tseng Wen-ting, whose contract will expire Jan. 15.

Tseng is also contemplating playing in China and is still negotiating a contract extension with Yulon.

A total of 105 regular season games will be played from Dec. 25, 2010 to March 20, 2011 in four venues around the country, including Sinjhuang Stadium in Xinbei City, Yilan University Gymnasium in the eastern city of Yilan, Taipei Gymnasium in downtown Taipei City and Fengshan Gymnasium in Fengshan in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung City.

Every team will play a 30-game regular season, meeting each of their six opponents five times, according to the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA), governing body of the seven-team SBL, which was established in 2003.

The top four teams will advance to the playoffs, which are scheduled to be played from March 23 to April 17. The first round playoffs and the finals will both adopt the best-of-seven format.

One imported player is allowed for every team. The import registration deadline is Feb. 12, which means that teams are free to change their imports up until that day. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Next China leader likely to keep peaceful cross-strait ties: SEF head

Taipei, Dec. 23 (CNA) The next leader of China is likely to continue with a peaceful approach to China-Taiwan affairs, Taiwan's top cross-strait negotiator said Thursday.

Fresh off the sixth round of cross-strait negotiations, Chiang Pin-kung, Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), told CNA in an interview that the peaceful development of cross-strait relations is obviously a vision shared by the two sides.

"Peace" is the key word in cross-strait exchanges because the two sides can only develop and prosper if peace is preserved, he said.

For example, Chiang said, some Taiwanese businessmen in recent years have opted to invest in Vietnam or Indonesia instead of the Philippines, where social order and political stability have been less than satisfactory.

Chiang said that he has not met Xi Jinping, who is scheduled to succeed Hu Jintao in 2012 as president of China, but he expects that Xi will maintain Hu's Taiwan policy.

However, Chiang acknowledged that there has been some inconsistency in China's policies toward direct cross-strait negotiations and Taiwan's international participation.

This is because China's foreign ministry "has its own way of thinking," he said.

Several cases in the past were indicative of China's intolerance regarding Taiwan's participation in the international community, he said.

China's attitude on this issue could affect bilateral relations and the Taiwan people's impression of China since "almost all these cases made headlines in the Taiwanese newspapers," Chiang said.

Taiwan had often reminded the Chinese government that Beijing's foreign embassies "are still acting in the same way," he said.

On Tuesday, Chiang and his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin, President of the Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), signed a medical and health-care cooperation agreement, the 15th pact between the two sides since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008 and began advocating cross-strait detente.

According to Chiang, cross-strait talks have entered a phase of "substance over style, " which he said means the content of the negotiations is more important than the process. In the future, the talks are likely to be more difficult, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the SEF will focus on the implementation of the existing agreements and will advocate continued and wide bilateral exchanges.

For instance, Taiwan should be more confident and open its doors wider to Chinese students, he said.

With its proud democracy, Taiwan will be able to "make them pro-Taiwan, " he said. "The more China and the people of China understand Taiwan, the more they will respect us for our democracy, hospitality, courtesy, vibrant culture and way of life."

Chiang lauded the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) move to establish a think tank that will formulate its China policy over the next decade.

He said that the DPP, which was firmly anti-China in the past, had to think about this issue sooner or later. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lawmakers worried about Taiwan's FTA strategy

Taipei, Dec. 22 (CNA) Legislators expressed concern Wednesday about Taiwan's strategy in its efforts to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with its trading partners and to compete with South Korea.

Taiwan is lagging behind South Korea, which signed an FTA with the European Union (EU) in October and is scheduled in January to ratify an FTA that it inked with the United States (U.S.) four years ago, said Legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).

Despite Taiwan's historic trade pact with China and the ensuing FTA negotiations with Singapore, Taiwan has made little progress in terms of its broader FTA drive, Lin said in a session of the Foreign and National Defense Affairs Committee of the legislature.

Taiwan has four FTAs with its five Central American allies. In June this year, it inked an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China and in August began to explore the possibility of an FTA with Singapore.

But compared to South Korea, its toughest economic rival in Asia, Taiwan lacks an effective strategy, according to some of the legislators in the session.

However, Deputy Economics Minister Francis Kuo-hsin Liang said there are other factors that must be taken into account.

"South Korea has always been a threat to us, " he conceded. However, while around one third of South Korean exports to the U.S. overlap with Taiwanese products, the total value of the South Korean products "is not as much as people believe," he said.

In the EU market, the situation is almost the same, he said. In other words, the effect of South Korea's FTAs with the two major economies of the U.S. and EU is not that great, Liang said.

"On the other hand, South Korea is concerned about being at a disadvantage in the Chinese market since Taiwan and China signed the ECFA, "Liang said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Thomas Ping-fu Hou said in the session that it is easier for South Korea to seek FTAs because it has official diplomatic relations with more countries.

The Taiwan government has said that its primary targets for FTAs are the U.S., the EU, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

But KMT legislators Shuai Hua-min and Liao Wan-ju warned Wednesday against pursuing as many FTAs as possible without employing a strategy that would comprehensively weigh the pros and cons of trade liberalization.

"The FTA drive should not be a game of numbers, " Shuai said.

Shuai also urged the government to use the ECFA to gain a better foothold in China, which does not have FTAs with either South Korea or Japan. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan's Schengen visa waiver to take effect Jan. 11: EETO

Taipei, Dec. 22 (CNA) The visa waiver privilege for Taiwan passport holders to the Schengen Area and three European Union (EU) member states will take effect Jan. 11, 2011, the EU's representative office in Taiwan said Wednesday.

The decision to lift visa requirements for Taiwan citizens will be published in the Dec. 22 issue of the Official Journal of the EU and will take effect 20 days from that date, said Guy Ledoux, head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taipei.

"We finally know the first day that Taiwan visitors will be able to visit Europe without a visa," he said. "That will be the 11th of January next year."

He said that an expected rise in the number of Taiwanese visitors to the EU signals a need to increase the number of flights between Taiwan and the EU -- the world's largest economy with 500 million inhabitants.

The visa waiver allows Taiwanese travelers to enter countries covered under the exemption for stays of up to 90 days within a six-month period.

The exemption applies to 25 Schengen Area countries, comprising 22 EU member states and three non-EU states -- Norway, Iceland and Switzerland -- and three non-Schengen EU member states -- Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus.

It also includes seven smaller European countries and territories -- the Vatican, Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Ledoux announced the start date of the visa waiver at the launch of a comic journal, which coincided with the publication of Taiwan's visa exemption in the Official Journal of the EU.

The comic journal was published by Taiwanese cartoonist Wan Wan, who was named Goodwill Ambassador to the EU and was invited by the EETO to visit seven European countries from June 16 to July 5 this year on a 20-day tour. The journal is a humorous account of her trip. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chen Yung-chi named top pick in 2010 Taiwan baseball draft

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) Former United States minor leaguer Chen Yung-chi was named the top pick by the Uni-President Lions in the 2010 Chinese Professional Baseball League draft Tuesday.

Chen played with the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates from 2004-2010. The 27-year-old, who mainly handles the second baseman position, is recognized for his power hitting.

Kuo Yen-wen, 22, who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 2007-2010, was selected at No. 2 by La New Bears. He is known for his strong defense and is capable of covering three infield positions -- shortstop, second base and third base.

Sinon Bulls surprised everyone with its selection of the little-known amateur infielder Huang Chih-pei.

At No. 4 and the last pick of the first round, defending champion Brother Elephants picked 26-year-old Tseng Sung-wei, a right-hander with a 156km per hour fastball who spent three years with the Cleveland Indians from 2007-2010 before heading home.

A record 88 players were selected in the draft of the four-team professional league, which was established in 1990. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Taiwan taekwondo athlete Yang suspended for three months (update)

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun was given a three-month suspension Tuesday by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) for protesting her disqualification during the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) said Tuesday at a press conference.

Yang was punished for staging a sit-in protest in the competition area Nov. 17 after she was disqualified on grounds of wearing extra electronic sensors in her socks.

The WTF ruling means that Yang will not be allowed to compete in any international sports events for the next three months. Her coach Liu Tsung-ta was slapped with a 20-month suspension, effective immediately.

The Chinese Taipei Taekwondo Association (CTTA) was fined US$50,000 for "negligence and wrongdoing, " according to an email sent Tuesday by the WTF to inform the CTTA of its ruling.

In the email, WTF President Choue Chungwon also said that the committee had "found evidence of various attempts, in particular in the Taiwan media, to negatively incite and manipulate public perceptions."

According to the WTF, it's Sanctions Committee found Yang guilty of two separate violations -- using illegal equipment and interfering with the management of the competition.

"The suspension is not likely to affect my chances of competing in the 2014 London Olympics, but I feel sorry for my coach because he is obliged to stand up for his athletes, " said Yang, with tears rolling down her cheeks at the hastily called press conference.

Yang, 25, said that despite the "light" suspension, the WTF's accusation of her cheating was hard to swallow. "But it seems that I can't do anything at this moment to prove my innocence," she said.

Yang said she will have to consider whether or not to try to participate in the London Olympics.

CTTA President Chen Chien-ping said at the press conference that the penalty was "harsher than we had expected" but the CTTA was ready to pay the fine before the Jan. 31, 2011 deadline to ensure the participation of Taiwan athletes in future competitions.

SAC Minister Tai Hsia-ling said the 20-month suspension against Liu was a severe punishment and the SAC and the CTTA are mulling their next move to overturn the decision.

The WTF's Sanction Committee, comprising Egyptian, Israel and Turkish officials, reviewed the Yang issue Dec. 18 in Seoul, South Korea in a meeting that included Yang, Liu and Chen.

WTF officials said Yang had violated the competition rules by wearing extra electronic sensors on her socks during her opening bout to score more points, but video footage later showed she did not have the sensors on during the match.

After the decision, Yang refused to leave the ring. Contradictory statements by taekwondo officials explaining the disqualification later sparked outrage in Taiwan.

Taiwan has officially filed an appeal with the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport against the disqualification. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Veterans seek compensation for extra year of service

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) A proposal is in the works to request compensation from the Taiwan government for more than 500,000 veterans who served an extra year in the military during the 1960s to 1980s.

According to the draft bill, the government issued an illegal order to force 567,407 soldiers, during the period 1968 to 1986, to serve for three instead of the two years mandated in the Act of Military Service System.

Dozens of veterans, aged 43 to 64, attended a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan Tuesday, saying that the government had treated them unfairly because they had to spend an extra 12 months of their youth in the military.

"I missed a lot of time with my wife and sons, " said Liu Tien-kuei, who was conscripted in 1978 in the military police.

Seeking to maintain troop levels after the retirement of many of its soldiers who came to Taiwan from China, the Kuomintang government in 1966 issued a temporary order for a one-year extension of service in the armored units, engineering corps, missile troops, artillery, airborne troops, signal troops, special forces and arsenal. The order was not revoked until 1986.

According to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Trong Chai who initiated the bill, the regulations at that time stipulated that the compulsory period of service was two years, therefore, the executive order was a clear violation of the law.

Trong said that the Ministry of National Defense should compensate the affected veterans for the loss of time and money.

The legislature's Rules Committee blocked the draft bill from the legislative agenda Monday, but Chai vowed to forge bipartisan support for the proposal and put the bill on the agenda next week.

Taiwan is aiming to have a fully volunteer military service system by 2014 to replace the current system, which is part volunteer and part conscription. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

MOFA helping stranded Taiwanese travelers in Europe

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday that Taiwan's representative offices in Europe are doing their best to help Taiwanese travelers stranded around the northern part of the continent due to bad weather.

The ministry confirmed that as of Tuesday morning, more than 100 Taiwanese tourists were stranded in Cologne, Vienna and London after heavy snow caused the cancellation and delay of flights across the European continent.

With the help of Taiwan's representative office, 73 Taiwanese tourists received a temporary visa or a Schengen visa exemption from the immigration office in Vienna, MOFA spokesman James Chang said.

Another group of 54 travelers on a China Airlines flight had arrived in London after previously being kept in Cologne, where the tourists received a group Schengen visa so they could leave the airport during their stay.

Dozens of Taiwanese travelers were also still in London waiting for Heathrow and Gatwick airports to open, Chang said.

The MOFA believed there were other Taiwanese travelers facing problems in Europe, and the Department of European Affairs was still gathering information on their situations, Chang said.

The ministry had a similar experience in helping more than 1,900 Taiwanese travelers get to their destination or apply for temporary travel documents in April, when a volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupted thousands of flights around Europe, Chang said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Monday, December 20, 2010

VP calls for Japan-Taiwan free trade agreement

Taipei, Dec. 20 (CNA) Vice President Vincent Siew called Monday for a Japan-Taiwan free trade agreement (FTA) and closer cooperation between the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the two countries, saying the moves would serve both sides' interests.

"I think the time is ripe for Japan and Taiwan to negotiate an FTA, and I hope Japan will seriously consider the issue, " Siew said in his opening remarks at the 2010 Taiwan-Japan Forum, citing the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in June and more recent interest in an FTA with Singapore.

Private sector cooperation also has enormous potential, Siew said, because Japanese businesses have long been known for their advanced technology and Taiwanese enterprises excel in manufacturing and exploring new markets.

Siew noted that Japan was Taiwan's second largest trade partner and its largest source of imports in 2009 as two-way trade reached US$50.7 billion and Taiwan's imports from Japan were worth US$36.2 billion.

Yoshio Okawara, a consultant of the Institute for International Policy Studies, agreed that a Japan-Taiwan coalition would be the best way for both countries to tackle East Asia's fast-changing economic climate.

But the former Japanese ambassador to the United States and Australia also warned that the emergence of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- a multilateral free trade agreement that aims to integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region -- could create a new economic dynamic in the region.

Scholars and officials also took time at the one-day forum to review the security front in East Asia and addressed the threat of North Korea and a rising China. The U.S.-Japan security pact, they agreed, was one of the pillars of East Asian security.

House of Councilors member Naoki Kazama of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan said Japan welcomed reduced tensions between Taiwan and China but had concerns over a Taiwan-China coalition at the same time.

A Taiwan-China coalition would mean that the East China Sea and the South China Sea could literally become China's "inland waters, " Kazama said.

The scenario would make it impossible for Japan to stop the Chinese Navy from projecting its power to the Pacific Ocean because Taiwan is an integral part of the "First Island Chain, " which is formed by the Aleutians, the Kuriles, Japan, the Ryukyus, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Borneo.

Japan, as one of the major powers in East Asia, could also be crucial to Taiwan in lending its support for Taiwan's participation in the international community, said Bau Tzong-ho, a political scientist at National Taiwan University.

"An isolated Taiwan and the discontent of the people of Taiwan would be detrimental to East Asian stability and does not serve Japan's national interests, " Bau said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan-Japan forum focuses on disputed Tiaoyutais

Taipei, Dec. 20 (CNA) Officials and scholars from Taiwan and Japan focused on the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands at an annual bilateral forum on Monday and could agree on only one thing: more discussion is needed on the issue.

In his opening remarks at the one-day 2010 Taiwan-Japan Forum, Vice President Vincent Siew said Taiwan and Japan shared common interests in the maritime sovereignty dispute and in many other areas and urged both sides to cooperate to create a win-win situation.

Speakers from Taiwan expressed considerable interest in the controversial issue, which resurfaced after a Chinese boat collided with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in September in waters off the Tiaoyutais, stirring up a diplomatic row between Tokyo and Beijing.

The islands, which lie about 100 nautical miles off Taiwan's northeastern tip, are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan and could have an impact on Japan-China relations and Japan-Taiwan relations at the same time, said Bau Tzong-ho, a political scientist at National Taiwan University.

Because China claims sovereignty over the islands through Taiwan -- which it says it a part of China -- Japan's national interests would be well served if it set aside the sovereignty dispute and negotiated an agreement on fishing in the islands' waters, Bau contended.

"That would deny China an excuse to intervene in the issue, " he argued.

The Tiaoyutais dispute could be the most important issue dividing Japan and Taiwan, said Nobuo Kishi, a member of the House of Councilors in the Diet (Japanese Congress) , but he agreed that handling it as a fisheries dispute could lead to negotiations with Taiwan in the future.

In contrast, it appeared that the Tiaoyutais had become a more intractable territorial dispute between Japan and China, said Kishi, a member of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

House of Councilors member Naoki Kazama of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan said that while Taiwan and China both claim sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais, Japan found that it was easier to talk to Taiwan about the issue.

Yang Yung-ming, a political scientist at National Taiwan University who has served as a National Security Council adviser, proposed an "East China Sea Initiative" that called for all countries involved to pledge to handle the issue through peaceful dialogue.

Yang said China's recent tendency to solve disputes using economic measures -- such as banning rare earth exports to Japan -- posed concerns that it could resort to the same approach in dealing with Taiwan in the future, despite warming cross-Taiwan Strait ties.

Joe Hung, Taiwan's former representative to Italy, suggested that the dispute be solved through Four Party Talks that include the three Tiaoyutai claimants -- Taiwan, China and Japan -- as well as the United States as a mediator. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taiwan should do more for China's human rights: scholars

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) Scholars had mixed feelings about the development of human rights and democracy in China Saturday but agreed that Taiwan could serve as a good example and should do more for its neighbor across the Taiwan Strait.

Various signs showed that some high level officials within the Communist Party of China (CCP) were ready for the introduction of judicial and human rights reforms, but it all came down to the top leader and the implementation of the law, said Jerome Cohen, Co-director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of the New York University School of Law.

Cohen, a respected law professor who had spent decades observing Taiwan and China, made the comments in a symposium on China's human rights development, organized by Taipei Bar Association, Lei Chen Human Rights Foundation and Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.

The Chinese leaders always said they supported human rights, but the human rights they supported were ones with "Chinese characteristics, " which were different from the Western standards, Cohen said.

"I always advised them that Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have all overcome the odds (when promoting human rights)," he said, adding "History is not an excuse for violating human rights."

A self-proclaimed optimist, Cohen said he could not afford to be too optimistic about China's future human rights development before China's political system changes because "within the CCP, it's very hard to tell the real thinking and mindset of the Chinese leader before he seizes the complete power."

Cohen, who met President Ma Ying-jeou -- his student at Harvard University in the 1970s -- yesterday, also said "the Taiwan government should not avoid talking with China about human rights issues".

Taiwan should demand protection of Taiwanese businessmen in China since now the cross-strait negotiations have touched upon the human safety issues, he said, referring to the recently stalled talks of a bilateral investment protection agreement.

Hsu Szu-chien, a researcher at Academia Sinica, urged Taiwan's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to partner with their Chinese counterparts in offering assistance and sharing experiences.

Hsu also called on authorities on both sides of the strait to launch a human rights dialogue, saying that the move would be helpful to China's grassroot human rights and democracy movement.

"It seems to me that the power of a rising China grows stronger every day. But at the same time, its moral position keeps falling back, " Hsu said, because it can no longer persuade its people with the same excuses and the people of China no longer believe everything the government says.

"What will happen to China in the future? I don't know, " Hsu said.

"I see the potential and momentum right there. What Taiwan can do is to help the Chinese society to be ready for the moment when opportunities come, " he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Kuo misses out on MLB's best setup man title

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) Taiwanese baseball pitcher Kuo Hong-chih of the Los Angeles Dodgers failed to win the 2010 Setup man of the Year Saturday in the annual Major League Baseball (MLB) This Year in Baseball (TYIB) awards.

The 29-year-old, who won the award in 2008, ranked third with 20 percent ballots casted behind Joaquin Benoit of Tampa Bay Rays, who is now with the Detroit Tigers, and Mike Adams of the San Diego Padres, who finished with 21 percent.

Benoit, who had a 1.34 ERA (earned run average) , garnered 49 percent of the ballots to win the award, which recognizes the best setup pitcher -- a relief pitcher who usually pitches in the seventh and eighth inning before the closer, while Adams finished second with 21 percent.

The award is one of 19 categories in the annual TYIB awards, which were calculated based equally on votes by fans at, media, front-office personnel and retired players.

Kuo finished the 2010 season with three wins, two losses and 12 saves in 56 appearances, his best performance since making his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2005, and became the first Taiwanese player to earn a spot in the MLB mid-season All-Star Game.

The left-hander, who had four surgeries on his elbow, also broke the Dodgers franchise record of the lowest ERA, finishing the season with an ERA of 1.20. He struck out 73 while yielding only 29 hits and 18 walks in 60 innings.

Aside from his record-setting ERA, he also limited opposing hitters to a .139 batting average during the season. Meanwhile, his WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) was an astounding 0.78. Anything below 1 is considered outstanding.

The TYIB Awards, which are also known as the GIBBY (The Greatness in Baseball Yearly) awards honor the 2010 season's top Player, Starter, Rookie, Closer, Setup Man, Defensive Player, Manager, Executive, Breakout Player, X-Factor, Dependable Player and Postseason MVP as well as the year's top Play, Moment, Performance, Oddity, Game, Fan Moment and Postseason Moment. (By Chris Wang) enditem

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wang re-signs with Nationals for one year

Taipei, Dec. 17 (CNA) Taiwanese right-hander Chien-Ming Wang has signed a one-year contract to rejoin the Washington Nationals that will guarantee him a base salary of US$1 million and give him a chance to earn another US$4 million in incentives, Wang's U.S.-based agent Alan Chang said in a statement early Friday.

"Wang has expressed gratitude to the Nationals for its recognition and confidence in his ability. He is currently working on individual training in Taiwan and is scheduled to be back in the U.S. early next year, " Chang said in the press release.

Wang, who played for the New York Yankees for nine years before being released in late 2009, signed with the Nationals in February for one year with a guaranteed US$2 million salary.

However, he has been in rehabilitation for the past 15 months and has not pitched for the Nationals in a Major League Baseball (MLB) game, only appearing in two instructional league games in October.

Wang was not offered a contract by the Nationals before the deadline of Dec. 3 and therefore became a free agent.

According to an MLB report published early Friday, Wang had indicated to his agent that he wanted to stay with the Nationals because of the way it treated him while recovering from surgery to his right shoulder.

Although Wang will receive only half the guaranteed salary of his previous contract, he can secure up to US$4 million in incentives next season.

Wang will be paid US$250,000 if he stays on the 25-man roster for more than 30 days, a further US$250,000 if he stays for 30 more days, and an additional US$250,000 if he stays for another 30 days after that, according to the contract.

The incentives will be based on how many games in which Wang appears as a starting pitcher. He will earn an extra US$100,000 between 10-19 games, US$150,000 between 20-21 games, US$200,000 for his 22nd starting job and US$300,000 for between 23 and 27 games.

Wang will receive as much as US$600,000 if he wins any MLB award, including US$200,000 for the Comeback Player of the Year award.

Wang won more games than any other big league pitcher (38) between 2006 and 2007, but his injuries have limited him to just 27 appearances over the past two years.

In 2009, when he earned US$5 million with the Yankees, Wang was 1-6 with an atrocious 9.64 ERA before being shut down for the season because of his shoulder. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ex-Minor Leaguers to enter Taiwan professional baseball draft

Taipei, Dec. 15 (CNA) Three baseballers from the United States Minor League were among the 88 players who applied to enter the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) next year, the domestic league said in a press release Wednesday.

Kuo Yen-wen, Chen Yung-chi and Tseng Sung-wei, who were all released by their teams in the U.S. this year, have submitted applications for the annual draft to be held Dec. 21 in Taipei, according to the press release.

Kuo, 22, who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 2007-2010, is known for his strong defense. He is capable of covering three infield positions -- shortstop, second baseman and third baseman.

Chen played with the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates from 2004-2010. The 27-year-old, who mainly handles the second baseman position, is recognized for his power hitting.

With a 156 km per hour fastball, right-hander Tseng, 26, spent three years with the Cleveland Indians from 2007-2010 before heading home.

Four CPBL teams -- Uni-President Lions, La New Bears, Sinon Bulls and Brother Elephants -- will make their picks in that order, according to the league office. The draft will automatically end after all the teams renounce their rights to make picks. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan ready to sign medical cooperation agreement with China

Taipei, Dec. 15 (CNA) Taiwan is ready to sign a medical cooperation agreement with China, which is expected to benefit the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, in the latest round of bilateral negotiations next week, Taiwanese officials said Wednesday.

With preparatory talks having been completed, the heads of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) should have no problem signing the deal in their sixth round of bilateral negotiations scheduled to be held Dec. 20-22 in Taipei between SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and ARATS President Chen Yunlin.

The agreement will be the 15th and one of the the most wide-ranging agreements between the two sides since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, Lai Shin-yuan, minister of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said in a joint press conference held by the MAC and the Department of Health (DOH).

Prevention of epidemics, management of research and development of medical products, management and research of traditional Chinese medicine, and first aid and emergency medical treatment, will be included in the agreement, according to the DOH.

Among them, prevention of epidemics and management of traditional Chinese medicine are considered the most urgent items, said Deputy Health Minister Hsiao Mei-ling.

With a platform for information-sharing and a mechanism for pandemic notification established, Taiwan's health authorities will be better able to deal with severe epidemics and outbreaks of contagious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and H1N1 influenza, according to Chang Feng-yee, director-general of the DOH's Centers for Disease Control.

The DOH said China has agreed to a "five noes" principle that stated Taiwan will not allow Chinese medical professionals to take local licensing exams; that Taiwan will not allow Chinese medical professionals to practice here; that Taiwan will not allow Chinese investment in building and running local hospitals; that Taiwan's national health insurance program will not pay for medical bills incurred by its citizens in Chinese medical facilities; and that the agreement will not contain any provisions regarding joint efforts to educate and cultivate medical professionals.

However, not everything went smoothly in the negotiations, as both sides confirmed that an investment protection agreement will not be signed as planned due to disagreement over trade dispute settlement measures and human safety protection.

In addition to the signing ceremony, Chen is scheduled to visit the Taipei International Flora Expo, but he will not meet with President Ma, MAC Deputy Chairman Liu Te-hsun told reporters. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

U.S. urged not to jeopardize Taiwan's interests in dealings with China

Taipei, Dec. 15 (CNA) Taiwan has urged the United States not to put Taiwan's interests at risk in its engagements with China, Taiwan's foreign ministry said Wednesday, ahead of a visit to the U.S. in January by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"We have advised the U.S. not to jeopardize Taiwan's interests" in its dealings with China, Deputy Foreign Minister Shen Lyu-shun said in a meeting of the legislature's foreign and national defense committee.

Taiwan has also requested an immediate briefing after Hu's visit to the U.S. and has asked to be informed ahead of time of important U.S.-China meetings in the future, Shen said.

Legislators expressed disappointment over a joint statement issued last November by the U.S. and China during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Beijing.

In the statement, the two countries underscored "the importance of the Taiwan issue in U.S.-China relations." China further emphasized that "the Taiwan issue concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, " and expressed the hope that the U.S. would "honor its relevant commitments and appreciate and support the Chinese side's position on this issue."

Referring to three communiques that the U.S. and China signed in 1972, 1979 and 1982 and which helped to normalize U.S.-China relations, Shen said a fourth communique was unlikely.

"But another joint statement is possible," he said.

Shen and Jason Yuan, Taiwan's representative to the U.S., both said that currently Taiwan-U.S. relations are "the best in 60 years," as described by former U.S. Ambassador to China Winston Lord.

Taiwan's diplomats now have greater access to the U.S. executive and legislative branches as well as to important figures in the White House, Shen said. This can be attributed to President Ma Ying-jeou's "surprise-free" approach, which has won praise in Washington and has helped to stabilize bilateral relations, he added.

Yuan said the U.S. has briefed Taiwan on a scheduled visit to China by a delegation led by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg. In meetings scheduled for Dec. 14-17, the delegation is expected to discuss with China the North Korea issue and Hu's state visit to the U.S. in January, he said.

The delegation includes Jeffrey Bader, National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs, and Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Yuan said.

Yuan, who returned to Taiwan to report to the legislature, said that he was hopeful that next round of U.S.-Taiwan talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) would take place before the Lunar New Year next February.

A visit to Taiwan by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also in the works, Yuan said. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan eyeing U.S. visa-free entry in 2011: representative

Taipei, Dec. 15 (CNA) Taiwan is seeking to be considered eligible for visa-free entry to the United States for its citizens in 2011, Taiwan's representative to the U.S. said Wednesday.

"The signing of three agreements on the exchange of information on stolen or counterfeit passports; the exchange of information on terrorists; and collaboration on combating crime will be crucial for Taiwan to be placed on the visa-waiver program (VWP) roadmap, " Jason Yuan said during a session of the Legislative Yuan's Foreign and Defense Committee.

With the extensive personnel flow between Taiwan and the U.S., the inclusion in the VWP became a priority after Taiwan was granted visa-free privileges for the Schengen Area of Europe last month.

There are three key factors in terms of Taiwan's VWP inclusion -- visa refusal rates, cases of overstay and a passport application and issuance procedure that requires travelers to apply in person, Yuan said.

Taiwan's U.S. visa refusal rate for fiscal 2010 was 2.2 percent, much lower than the minimum requirement of 3 percent, and few cases of Taiwanese overstays were recorded, Yuan said, adding that new procedures will be tested in Taiwan requiring visa applicants to complete their passport applications in person, starting March 1, 2011.

The signing of the three agreements will also improve Taiwan's chances of satisfying the three factors, according to U.S. recommendations in a meeting between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Taiwan's Office of Homeland Security under the Executive Yuan, which took place recently in Washington, Yuan said.

Also speaking at the legislative committee meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Shen Lyu-hsun reaffirmed that Taiwan intends to be a candidacy country of the VWP in 2011.

The visa-waiver drive, under which 96 countries or regions in the world now grant Taiwan visa exemptions, is part of Taiwan's commemoration of next year's 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan, Singapore to open formal talks on trade deal

Taipei, Dec. 15 (CNA) Taiwan and Singapore will begin formal negotiations on a free trade agreement early next year after completing feasibility studies, representatives of both governments announced in a joint press release Wednesday.

If a deal were reached, it would be titled "Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership, " or ASTEP, the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore and the Singapore Trade Office in Taipei said in the statement.

"Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu" is Taiwan's official name at the World Trade Organization, of which Singapore is also a member.

The decision to launch formal negotiations came after both sides completed feasibility studies and concluded that an economic cooperation agreement would offer significant mutual benefits, the statement said.

Delegations from both sides met for the first time in Singapore from Dec. 9-10, according to the statement, but it did not specify when formal talks would begin.

The statement left open the possibility that priority areas could be accorded expedited treatment in the negotiations.

The much-anticipated deal is seen as a stepping stone for Taiwan to seek more free trade agreements (FTAs) with major trading partners after signing an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in June to liberalize bilateral trade.

Prior to signing the ECFA, which so far has provided for tariff reductions or exemptions on only a limited basket of goods, Taiwan had only concluded four FTAs with five of its diplomatic allies in Latin America that accounted for less than 0.2 percent of Taiwan's total external trade.

A trade deal with Singapore would be significant because it is Taiwan's fifth largest export market and one of its top 10 trading partners, with bilateral trade reaching US$13.4 billion in 2009.

Singapore became the first country to express interest in signing an FTA with Taiwan following the signing of the ECFA. The two countries first issued a joint press release on Aug. 5 saying they were exploring the feasibility of signing an economic cooperation agreement.

Taiwan has had trouble signing free trade deals with non-allied countries in the past because of China's obstruction. But the government has argued that after the signing of the ECFA, other countries would be more open to negotiating trade pacts with Taiwan. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Japanese runners highlight Taiwan's 24-hour ultramarathon

Taipei, Dec. 11 (CNA) Japanese runners Ryochi Sekiya and Mami Kudo were both determined to win the 2010 Soochow International 24-hour ultramarathon for good reason when the competition started at 9 a.m. Saturday in suburban Taipei.

Kudo hoped that by the time the race ends on 9 a.m. Sunday, she will have surpassed her own world record of 254.425 kilometers, set in the Taiwan event last year, while Sekiya was aiming for his sixth men's title in Taipei.

Sekiya and Kudo were among 30 runners from around the world participating in the unusual race, a competition organized by Soochow University (SCU) in which all participants run as far as they can over the 24-hour period on the school's 200 meter track.

Whoever runs the farthest is named the winner.

Kudo, 46, won the race last year and set the women's 24-hour marathon world record. She will face a tough challenge from 39-year-old French rival Anne-Celile Fontaine, who has a personal best of 243.644 km.

With a personal best of 274.884 km that outshines his challengers, 43-year-old Sekiya was favored to capture the men's title again.

Martin Fryer of Australia, Ulrich Gross of Italy, Kenji Okiyama of Japan, Lee Dong-mun of South Korea and Taiwan's Chen Chin-tsai were expected to put up a good fight in the men's group.

In addition to the 24-hour competition, competitions in other categories, including the 12-hour competition, the 10-km challenge and half marathon relay, were also being held at the annual event.

The competition, which is celebrating its 10th edition, was first held in 1999 and has been awarded a silver IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) label.

If five male or female runners surpass minimum distance requirements -- 240 km for men and 220 km for women -- in the same race, the competition will be awarded a gold label, the organizers said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan's 'golden pair' makes Hong Kong Badminton Open final

Taipei, Dec. 11 (CNA) Taiwan's Cheng Wen-hsing and Chien Yu-chin, the world's top-ranked women's doubles badminton team, beat a Russian duo Saturday to advance to the women's doubles finals of the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open Super Series 2010.

The top-seeded pair rallied from a set down to pull off an 18-21, 21-12, 21-13 win against third seeds Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova at Queen Elizabeth Stadium.

Cheng and Chien will meet the winner of the other semifinal being played Saturday night -- an all-Chinese battle pitting Pan Pan and Tian Qing against Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang -- in Sunday's final.

Chien was also to team with Lee Sheng-mu in the mixed doubles semifinal to be played later Saturday against fifth seeds Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei of China.

The "golden pair" regained the top spot in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) women's doubles ranking in early October, the first time they were ranked first in the world since January 2008.

The Hong Kong Open is the last of the 12-tournament Super Series, which compiles a separate Super Series Standings. Cheng and Chien are currently also ranked first in Super Series women's doubles.

The top eight men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles players and teams will be invited to compete in the BWF Super Series Finals 2010, which will be held in Taipei Jan. 5-9, 2011. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Friday, December 10, 2010

U.S. governor bows to Chinese pressure, cancels Taiwan trip: report

Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) Missouri Governor Jay Nixon acknowledged Friday that he canceled his trip to Taiwan over concerns that it would impact his state's relations with China, U.S. media reported.

Nixon was scheduled to lead a trade mission from Dec. 10-16 to Taiwan and South Korea. In Taiwan, he was expected to sign a letter of intent under which Taiwanese businesses would commit to purchasing US$600 million of Missouri products, including corn and soybeans, according to a Dec. 1 statement from Nixon's office.

Nixon was also scheduled to meet President Ma Ying-jeou and Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang during his planned stay, the statement said.

The governor was cited by an AP report as saying Thursday U.S. time that the trip was canceled because it could affect Missouri's efforts to make Lambert-St. Louis International Airport a trade hub for Chinese goods.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that Nixon was forced to cancel the mission last week due to pressure from the Midwest China Hub Commission and the Chinese consulate.

Nixon described his dilemma at a Thursday press conference.

"Leading a delegation of this magnitude, a foreign mission with a number of factors coming into we continue to assess those factors, I just determined it wasn't an optimal time to do that, " Nixon said, according to a St. Louis Public Radio transcript.

The governor said he still planned to reschedule the visit and did not believe that the cancellation had "killed the deal."

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman James Chang told the Central News Agency on Friday that the governor's office expressed gratitude to Taiwan for its assistance in arranging the visit and said the governor could not make the trip due to "other business.".

According to Chang, the governor's office did not mention anything about China in notifying Taiwan that the trip had been canceled. Chang said the MOFA is looking into the matter and has been trying to gather more information.

Nixon's office said previously that Taiwanese businesses had expressed an interest in purchasing an average of US$120 million in Missouri goods per year over the next five years.

Missouri exports to Taiwan totaled US$69.1 million in 2009, and initial projections through the third quarter of 2010 indicated an increase of about 28 percent this year. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Dissident urges Taiwan to pay more attention to China's human rights

Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) Chinese dissident Wang Dan urged Taiwan's government and people Friday to pay more attention to the development of human rights in China because the issue will impact Taiwan's own security.

Speaking at an international conference to commemorate Taiwan's human rights development and International Human Rights Day, Wang, a visiting scholar at National Tsing Hua University, said human rights is a universal issue that should not be considered as merely domestic affairs of individual countries.

"The human rights issue is not only a political issue but also an issue of civilization. Whether or not China is a civilized country is related to Taiwan's own security because of the proximity of the two places, " the 41-year-old said during the International Conference on the Centennial of Human Rights in Taiwan: Retrospect and Prospect.

"An uncivilized neighbor is definitely not good news for the people of Taiwan, " he said.

Wang was among the core members of the 1989 student movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square that led to the Chinese government's bloody massacre of the protesters. He was jailed from 1989-1993 before being allowed to go into exile in the United States and has been advocating democracy and freedom for China abroad ever since.

The dissident-turned-scholar urged Taiwan to establish a platform, especially on the Internet, for dialogue between everyday people in Taiwan and China and called for Taiwan's more experienced non-government organizations to help their Chinese counterparts develop.

He advised the government to invite more overseas Chinese students to visit Taiwan and experience democracy and freedom first-hand, and added that Taiwan should also make its position clear on every reported case of human rights infringement in China, despite the warmer cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

Wang said he supports more liberalized cross-strait trade ties and President Ma Ying-jeou's plan to allow more Chinese students to study in Taiwanese universities.

At the same time, he said, if Taiwan can help China develop into a more civilized society with improved human rights, the efforts "will win Taiwanese people goodwill and a favorable impression from the Chinese people." (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan wins first medal at Asian Beach Games

Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) Taiwan won its first medal at the 2010 Asian Beach Games in Muscat, Oman with a third place finish by Pan Kai-wen in the men's 5-kilometer marathon swimming Friday.

Pan, 21, won a bronze medal, completing the event in one hour and 54.9 seconds, behind Saleh Mohammad of Syria who won in a time of 1: 0: 14.4 and Xu Wenchao of China who finished in second place in 1:0:19.5.

According to the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, Pan's bronze was Taiwan's first medal in long-distance swimming at the Asian Beach Games.

The second edition of the Asian Beach Games is being held in Muscat, Oman from Dec. 8-16, with more than 1,000 athletes from 45 Asian countries participating in 52 categories in 14 sports.

Taiwan sent a team of 38 athletes -- 24 men and 14 women -- to Muscat to compete in beach handball, beach volleyball, beach woodball, marathon swimming, sailing, triathlon and water skiing.

The Asian Beach Games is a biennial multi-sport event regulated by the Olympic Council of Asia. The inaugural games were held in Bali, Indonesia in 2008. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Vincentians debut in Taiwan's top collegiate basketball division

Taipei, Dec. 7 (CNA) Two students from the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines made their debut this week as the first foreign players in Taiwan's top collegiate basketball division.

As of Tuesday, Craiglee Sam, 23, and Cregg Friday, 21, of Ming Chuan University had helped their school to a 1-1 start in its first two games in the preliminary round of the University Basketball Association Division 1 competition.

Sam and Friday have made history not only as the first foreign players to appear in the UBA Division 1, but also as the first foreign students to receive sports scholarships from Ming Chuan University in 2009.

The two players are from the Grenadine island of Bequia and are both majoring in tourism at Ming Chuan University, which has campuses in Taipei and Taoyuan cities.

Sam, who is 198cm tall, had eight points and nine rebounds in his first Division 1 game Sunday, which Ming Chuan lost 80-54 to defending champion National Taiwan Normal University.

In his second game Monday, Sam scored three points and grabbed nine rebounds to help Ming Chuan to its first ever victory in a Division 1 game -- a 60-50 win over Taipei Physical Education College.

Friday, who also stands 198cm, had 18 points, 15 rebounds and an impressive eight blocked shots in the two games.

The pair led Ming Chuan to a fourth place finish in the UBA Division II last year as freshmen. The school was promoted this year to Division I, which has been expanded from 12 to 16 teams.

Sam has won several Most Valuable Player awards in his home country and received an American basketball scholarship from Portland Community College in 2007. He spent a year in the United States before returning to his hometown.

Sam's cousin Alexus Foyle, also of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, played last year in Taiwan with the Taiwan Mobile Leopards, one of the seven professional teams in the Super Basketball League, Taiwan' top basketball competition.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is one of Taiwan 23 diplomatic allies. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan lists TEM, visa-waivers as priorities in Europe in 2011

Taipei, Dec. 7 (CNA) Taiwan hopes to take an initial step toward signing a Trade Enhancement Measures (TEM) deal with the European Union (EU) and secure more visa-exemptions in the region next year, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official in charge of European affairs said Tuesday.

Negotiating TEM and pushing for visa waivers from 24 European countries or territories were the priorities on the country's European affairs agenda for 2011, James Lee, director-general of the ministry's Department of European Affairs, said at a regular press briefing.

Taiwan already secured a breakthrough in Europe on Nov. 25 when the Council of the European Union approved visa exemptions for Taiwanese citizens in 35 European countries, including the 25 in the Schengen Area. The new visa-waivers will take effect in January 2011.

Lee said Taiwan will now turn to six Balkan countries -- Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia -- and 18 British and French overseas territories, such as Tahiti in French Polynesia, to push for visa exemptions.

As for the Trade Enhancement Measures, Lee said negotiating them was a natural priority after Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in June, because the EU is Taiwan's fourth largest trade partner.

"We would like to take the first step of a feasibility study (for a TEM) next year. After that a joint study," Lee said.

The European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (ECCT) has actively urged the EU to initiate talks with Taiwan on the trade liberalization measures, according to Lee.

Taiwan's government has been in regular contact with the EU on the issue and has advocated a "block-building" approach to lowering Taiwan-EU trade barriers if a package deal were not plausible, he said.

An inter-agency task force consisting of the MOFA and the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has been established to work on Taiwan-EU trade liberalization issues, he added.

"We think that more urgent issues, such as investment, tariffs and standards, could be negotiated in separate agreements to benefit Taiwanese and European businesses, " he said.

Lee was not optimistic that negotiations on the issues could begin immediately, however, because the EU is engaged in free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with South Korea, India and Brazil, and he was not sure the EU would have other teams to work with Taiwan on the TEM.

That is why the possibility of doing separate and then joint feasibility studies were more realistic goals in 2011, Lee said.

Looking back at 2010, Lee listed the passage of visa exemptions in the Schengen Area as one of Taiwan's biggest accomplishments last year. Taiwan also signed a new aviation agreement with the United Kingdom and a double taxation avoidance agreement with Hungary. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan-Canada working holiday quota raised to 1,000: CTOT

Taipei, Dec. 7 (CNA) More Taiwanese will be able to take a working holiday in Canada in 2011 after Canada raised the quota for Taiwanese participation in the program from 700 to 1,000, the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei (CTOT) said in a statement Tuesday.

"The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei is pleased to announce that we have increased our quota for the 2011 International Experience Canada initiative to 1,000 for Taiwan, " the office said.

Taiwan and Canada signed an agreement earlier this year to launch the working holiday program on July 1. Under the program, people aged 18-35 from the two countries are allowed to travel and work in each other's territory for up to one year.

The original annual quota of 200 was raised to 700 on July 27 because of an enthusiastic response from local youth.

The CTOT said it will be accepting applications for the program postmarked on or after Jan. 10, 2011.

Taiwan has signed working holiday agreements with six countries -- Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Germany and Japan. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ex-NSC head calls for 'Taiwan consensus,' cross-party dialogue

Taipei, Dec. 6 (CNA) Su Chi, a former secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), called for a "Taiwan consensus" and much-needed dialogue between domestic and cross-Taiwan Strait political rivals Monday.

Su, who resigned from the NSC in February but remains a close confidant of President Ma Ying-jeou, encouraged the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to engage in dialogue with the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) to form a Taiwan consensus that could enable Taiwan to negotiate with China boldly and confidently.

Speaking on Taiwan's external and internal relations at an international symposium, Su said the Taiwan-China-United States triangular relationship, which he called the "Big Triangle," had been stable over the past two and a half years under Ma.

But the "Small Triangle" -- describing relations among the KMT, the DPP and China's Communist Party -- had not been as stable mainly because "the DPP has not been talking to the KMT and the CPC" at all, he said.

Part of the problem, he said, was that the DPP's elite had yet to forge a consensus on the pro-independence party's China policy, with some insisting on anti-China positions and others taking more moderate stances.

He contended that incumbent DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and former President Chen Shui-bian had not made a big enough effort to forge a consensus on the issue, and he said the lack of a DPP consensus was "actually dragging Taiwan down."

Su, who coined the formula for dealing with China as the "1992 Consensus" -- also known as "one China, different interpretations" -- advised the DPP to form a party consensus before eventually communicating with China's Communist Party.

He acknowledged that internal dialogue between the KMT and DPP could be difficult because of Taiwan's domestic political past and the level of politicization, but he still expressed a certain level of optimism.

Some DPP elites have begun to realize that the world was changing and that people's needs were changing as well, he said.

"They also have realized that Taiwan independence may be desirable, but not plausible, " said Su, now a professor at Tamkang University.

The KMT and the DPP might not agree on everything, "but at least we can agree on something, " Su said, adding that the lack of communication will be dangerous because it could cause misunderstandings.

Su said that while the two parties have not talked to each other or respected each other in the past, Taiwan's democracy has matured, making dialogue possible.

He welcomed Tsai's plans to establish a think tank to help formulate the DPP's China policy and policies on external relations.

Looking at future cross-strait development, the former national intelligence chief said he had four major concerns -- the "one-China" principle, Taiwan's international space, confidence-building measures and a peace agreement.

The "one-China" principle, he said, would be the key because the other three issues were all related to it.

Taiwan's engagement with China before the critical 2012 presidential election is expected to remain focused on economic issues, with political issues unlikely to move onto the agenda, he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Democracy tops Taiwan's seven core interests: MAC head

Taipei, Dec. 6 (CNA) Democracy, sovereignty, security and the right of free choice on the future of cross-Taiwan Strait relations rank among Taiwan's seven core interests in engaging with China, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan said Monday.

The right to meaningful participation in the international community, the right not to be discriminated against, and the right of the disadvantaged to survive were also key interests, said Taiwan's top China policy-maker at an international symposium on "Cross-Strait Interactions and Power Relations in East Asia."

Democracy is Taiwan's "basic prerequisite in addressing cross-strait relations, " said Lai at the seminar, organized by the MAC and the Institute for National Policy Research.

"We are absolutely adamant that no development in cross-strait relations and no connection between us will or can be allowed to harm the democratic way of life of the Taiwanese people."

That is why Taiwan's people should be able to freely decide their own future, she said.

Commenting on discrimination against the country, Lai said that Taiwan, as a major trading nation and member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) , had the right to enjoy fair competitive trade conditions.

"That includes the right to participate in regional economic integration and the right to negotiate and sign economic agreements with our main trading partners," she said.

Lai highlighted two significant factors that have made an impact on East Asia's situation -- China's rise and U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy of renewed U.S. engagement in Asia.

"Compared to the exchanges of artillery fire between the two Koreas, the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait stands out as all the more precious an achievement."

But that achievement has not come easily, she contended.

"We consider the people to be the main actors in cross-strait relations. Only if we understand, respect and safeguard the core interests of Taiwan's people will cross-strait relations be able to develop in a more stable forward direction, " she said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Taiwan celebrates International Migrants Day

Taipei, Dec. 5 (CNA) The government pledged Sunday to protect the rights of migrants in the country and to promote cultural diversity, because Taiwan itself has always been a migrant country.

"From the days of Koxinga to 1949, when millions of people from China came here, to the present, when there are about 910,000 migrants in Taiwan, this place has always been a country of migrants, " Premier Wu Den-yih said at the opening ceremony of the International Migrants Day Carnival that was held in the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall plaza.

The carnival wrapped up a series of events organized by the National Immigration Agency (NIA) to celebrate International Migrants Day Dec. 18, which was appointed in 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly to take into account the large and increasing number of migrants around the world.

The migrant population in Taiwan consists mainly of foreign spouses, of whom a large number come from Southeast Asian countries and China, and foreign workers, most of whom came from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

"Being a stranger in a country one hardly understands can be frightening, " Interior Minister Jiang Yi-huah said, adding that "this is why new migrants in Taiwan need as much help as physically handicapped or under-privileged people."

In the past, the biggest challenges for migrants were the language barrier and adapting to a different culture and society, said Hsieh Li-kung, NIA director-general.

Thanks to the help and assistance of hundreds of local non-government organizations (NGOs) and local government agencies, those issues have become of less concern, he said.

With one in six marriages being transnational and one in eight babies born to families in which one spouse is a migrant, Hsieh said, the new challenges for Taiwan in the future will be creating jobs for migrants and providing help to children of migrant families in terms of education and development.

Citing the example of 12-year-old Penny Hsieh, who won the national women's tennis title in the age-12 group and whose mother is originally from Cambodia, the director-general said his agency has helped Hsieh to secure local sponsorship to cover her training expenses.

Hsieh, who comes from the central county of Changhua, attended the carnival, which had more than 100 booths, including food stands and stalls run by local government agencies and NGOs to promote awareness of cultural diversity.

Foreign representatives from the Marshall Islands, Peru, Haiti, The Gambia and the Philippines also attended the event. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Cross-strait development should be virtuous cycle: foreign minister

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) It is imperative for China to respect the will of the people of Taiwan and make the development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations a virtuous, rather a vicious cycle, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang told CNA in an interview Friday.

"China needs to know that both sides of the strait have fought over the issue of sovereignty for decades without a solution. And that's why we say it's time to set the dispute aside and stop touching upon the issue, " Yang said.

"We also think that China should take the passion and consensus of the 23 million Taiwanese people to participate in the international community seriously, " said Yang.

Economically, Taiwan and China have been stepping up efforts to liberalize bilateral trade ties by signing the historic economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) in June. Bilateral personnel exchanges have also increased since the relaxation of regulations, he said.

On the political front, President Ma Ying-jeou has called for rapprochement, flexible diplomacy and a diplomatic truce with China since assuming office in May 2008 to reduce tension and stop a diplomatic war over international allies, which has cost hundreds of millions of dollars under previous administrations.

However, Taiwan's international space is still limited, Yang said. For many Taiwanese, various incidents on international occasions suggest that China is still hesitant to further extend its goodwill.

China has to understand that "cross-strait relations and Taiwan's external relations should go hand-in-hand in a virtuous cycle, " Yang said, so that the Taiwanese people will be more supportive of government policy.

"In the past, it has been a vicious cycle and a relentless diplomatic war, " said Yang.

Taiwan has done its part in extending olive branches, choosing not to escalate tension in its efforts to participate in politically sensitive international organizations, such as the United Nations, asking instead only for meaningful participation, he said.

In the Southeast Asian countries of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, where Taiwan intends to boost its economic presence, friendly gestures from China are thin on the ground, however, Yang went on.

"Taiwan does not intend to alter these countries' relations with China, nor is it approaching them with hidden agendas, " said Yang, adding that China's diplomatic approach to Taiwan "has not been well thought through."

Looking at the coming year, Yang said Taiwan's diplomacy priorities will focus on consolidating relations with its current 23 diplomatic allies and its relations with the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries.

"Taiwan may not enjoy official diplomatic relations with these countries, but we are allies who share the same values of freedom and democracy, " he said.

Taiwan will also actively seek more meaningful participation in international organizations, as well as international non-government organizations, he said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Friday, December 03, 2010

Taiwan still unsure about taking taekwondo case to CAS

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) Almost one week after the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, Taiwan government could not decide whether to take the case of a controversial disqualification of a Taiwanese female taekwondo athlete in the event to an international sports arbitration institution.

An inter-agency meeting headed by Vice Premier Sean Chen failed to come to a conclusion Friday on whether to appeal to Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) about the case of Yang Shu-chun, who was disqualified during her first-round bout in the women's taekwondo under 49-kilogram weight division on Nov. 17 after she scored a 9-0 lead over her Vietnamese opponent.

According to World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Secretary-General Yang Jin-suk, who did not have any role in the actual decision but served as the main spokesman for the taekwondo world in the incident's aftermath, said Yang was disqualified for wearing extra sensors on her socks in an attempt to score more points, which was an act of cheating.

All video evidence and witness accounts show that Chen had taken off the sensors before going into the ring.

The task force, which included government agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Sports Affairs Council, was still unsure about the CAS' jurisdiction on the case and what remedy it is seeking, said Sung Yao-ming, a lawyer hired by the Taiwan government to handle the case.

The CAS is established to handle sports disputes, but "we should first clarify whether this case fits the definition of a 'sports dispute', " Sung told reporters in a post-meeting press conference.

"We are now waiting for further information from a Swiss-based lawyer who is familiar with sports arbitration matters to have better assessment of our next move, " he said, adding that the decision "should come within days."

However, it appeared that Taiwan is not likely to file a lawsuit against taekwondo officials in a Guangzhou court, a suggestion made by Sung after the incident, which has ignited public outrage and an anti-Korea sentiment in Taiwan and has received coverage from international media.

The controversy was so high-profile that Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih had personally addressed the incident as "unfair" and had described it as damaging Taiwan's national pride.

Citing an interpretation by China's supreme people's court during the 2008 Beijing Olympics stating that the court did not accept sports-related lawsuits, Sung said that a Guangzhou court could reject the case with the same reason.

SAC Chairwoman Tai Hsia-ling said that while Taiwanese fans and Taiwan government could not accept the accusations against Yang, the task force will appeal the case via legal channels.

"We're going to approach this dispute in the same way we were trained on the sports field -- to play it by the rule, " Tai said. (By Chris Wang) enditem

Task force formed to monitor Wikileaks documents: foreign minister

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) A special task force has been established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to monitor Taiwan-related documents expected to be released soon by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang told CNA Friday.

"We have been in close contacts with the United States and we believe that the leaked classified documents will not jeopardize bilateral relations, " Yang said.

Wikileaks announced on its website that over the next few months, it will release in stages 251,287 cables originating from 274 U.S. embassies between Dec. 28, 1966 to Feb. 28, 2010 of the total 3,456 that were sent between the U.S. State Department and the American Institute in Taiwan -- the de facto U.S. representative office in Taiwan.

The MOFA has set up a task force under its Department of North American Affairs which has held meetings since last week to gauge and manage possible impacts of Wikileaks' release, Yang said.

Yang declined to comment on the authenticity of the documents, though Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu has said in the legislature that information unveiled by the website "was not necessarily true."

It would be more appropriate to let the U.S. make comments on the case, given that those hacked documents were U.S. government properties, Yang said.

According to Kao, a special task force under the Ministry of National Defense headed by Vice Minister Andrew Yang has been set up to follow future leaks by the website and analyze and verify any details that were related to Taiwan. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ S.C.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Businessmen's safety paramount in cross-strait talks: lawmakers

Taipei, Dec. 2 (CNA) The safety of Taiwanese businessmen in China should be ensured and protected in the proposed agreements that are scheduled to be signed in upcoming cross-Taiwan Strait talks later this month, lawmakers said Thursday.

Text should be included in a proposed investment protection agreement Taiwan hopes to sign with China later this month, along with a medical cooperation agreement, to ensure China upholds two international human rights covenants it has signed, lawmakers on the Economics Committee proposed in a draft resolution.

"The safety of Taiwanese businessmen in China can be guaranteed only if Chinese law enforcement is in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights it has signed, " said Pan Meng-an, a legislator of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during an interpellation session.

Statistics of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) , which is charged with dealing with matters concerning Taiwan's exchanges with China, show that 2,250 of 3,969 complaints filed by China-based Taiwanese businessmen from 1991 to October 2010 were related to personal safety. The number was more than the 1,719 complaints filed in connection with trade disputes.

Among the 2,250 safety-related cases, 649 Taiwanese nationals were detained, 396 were reported missing and 103 were killed.

Legislators expressed concern ahead of the sixth round of cross-strait talks, which reportedly will be held Dec. 16-17 in Taipei. Despite the assurances of government officials present at the interpellation session, including Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-hsiang and Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Chairman Kao Charng, that the protection of Taiwanese nationals is the government's priority, they said that it will be difficult to include this demand in the agreement.

"Taiwan wants the Chinese authorities to handle trade disputes in the spirit of the two international covenants, but investment protection agreements usually do not cover this field, " Shih said.

Compared with investment protection, safety protection is even more urgent for the bilateral negotiation agenda because Taiwanese businessmen have been complaining about the issue for years, ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Wu Ching-chih said, adding that some businessmen have had to flee China in the dead of night to avoid being illegally detained by Chinese law enforcement authorities.

However, Ting Shou-chung, also a KMT legislator, warned that if Taiwan insists on including the safety aspect in the text of the agreement, the negotiations could collapse.

"In any case, China does not abide by international covenants, " he said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Cross-strait investment protection agreement delayed: MOEA

Taipei, Dec. 2 (CNA) It will be very difficult to sign an investment protection agreement in the next round of cross-Taiwan Strait talks scheduled for this month, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-hsiang said Thursday.

Taiwan was hoping to sign an investment protection agreement and a medical cooperation agreement with China this month in the next stage of cross-strait cooperation after the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between the two sides in June.

"The two sides could not agree on a mechanism for settling investment disputes and are still in talks on that aspect (of the agreement) , " Shih said in a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Economic Committee Thursday morning.

"It will be very difficult to seal the deal in this round of negotiations," he said.

Investment protection has been one of the major issues in the follow-up negotiations after the signing of the ECFA. Taiwan and China had agreed that substantial agreements on trade in goods and services, investment protection and dispute settlement should be signed within six months of the ECFA's implementation in September.

With trade and investment activities across the strait growing amid warming bilateral ties, trade and investment disputes have also increased. According to the Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF) , 3,969 complaints related to trade disputes have been filed by China-based Taiwanese businessmen from 1991 to September this year.

The dispute settlement mechanism cannot be routed through the World Trade Organization (WTO) , which only deals with bilateral matters, or through the World Bank, because Taiwan is not a World Bank member, Shih said.

The two sides failed to reach a consensus in the working group meetings on whether the mechanism should be included in the investment protection agreement, given that the mechanism will be regulated in one of the four follow-up agreements, Shih told legislators.

"It's more than likely that the mechanism will be established under the proposed Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee, " which consists of government official from Taiwan and China designated to handle bilateral economic exchanges related to the ECFA, Shih said.

The sixth round of cross-strait negotiation reportedly will be held from Dec. 16-17 in Taipei, but Shih and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Chairman Kao Charng declined to confirm the date, during the interpellation session.

The cross-strait negotiations are also known as Chiang-Chen talks because they are led by Taiwan's SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) President Chen Yunlin. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc