Saturday, January 29, 2011

Taiwan vessel released from pirate control: EU Navy

Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) Taiwanese fishing vessel Taiyuan 227 had been released after being hijaced by Somali pirates for nine months, European Union Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR Somalia) said Saturday Taiwan Time.

"Although exact details surrounding the situation are not known at this time, there are indications that the Taiwanese flagged fishing vessel TAI YUAN 227 has been released from pirate control, " the naval military operation -- codenamed Operation Atlanta -- established to protect maritime security said in a release posted on its website.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is trying to confirm the news, " Bruno C.H. Shen, deputy director-general of the MOFA's Department of African Affairs, told CNA by telephone Saturday morning.

"We have not received related information or contact from the crew so far, " he said.

The Kaohsiung-based longliner with 28 crew members from China, Vietnam, Kenya, Mozambique and the Philippines was held May 6 last year while operating northeast of the Seychelles.

The vessel's owner "apparently received a call from the master stating that they had been released but that they did not know why, " EUNAVFOR said in the release, adding that the crew were provided with fresh water and food by a United States warship after their release.

Taiyuan 227, which had likely been used as a pirate mothership until three days ago according to the EUNAVFOR, is now heading away from Somalia.

Latest statistics of the EUNAVFOR showed that there are two Taiwanese fishing vessels still in the hands of pirates-- Zechuntsai No. 68 and Shiuh Fu No. 1, which were hijacked in March and December of last year, respectively.

There are 30 vessels and 711 hostages being held by Somali pirates as of Friday, according to the statistics. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Friday, January 28, 2011

Taiwan's Chan advances to Australian tennis open mixed doubles final

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) Chan Yung-jan became the first Taiwanese player to make the mixed doubles finals in a Grand Slam tennis event Friday after teaming up with Australian Paul Hanley for a come-from-behind 2-1 semifinal victory in the 2010 Australian Tennis Open tournament.

The Chan-Hanley duo beat Bathanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and Horia Tecau of Romania 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 in 72 minutes.

Chan's record-setting win came after her 2-1 victory over compatriot Chuang Chia-jung and Dick Norman of Belgium a day earlier had equalled the best mixed doubles record established by Hsieh Shu-wei, who teamed with Zimbabwe's Kevin Ullyett to make the 2009 U.S. Open semifinal.

Plagued by eight unforced errors, Chan and Hanley gave up the first set in 28 minutes before regaining their rhythm and taking the second set 6-3. They had five winners, including two timely aces, in a hard-fought third set.

The 21-year-old Chan, ranked No. 119 in women's singles and No. 18 in women's doubles in the world, and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, lost in the women's doubles third round to Russian duo Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko. Chan did not make the women's singles main draw this year, losing in the third round of the qualifying singles.

Chan and Hanley's opponents in the finals will be the second-seeded duo Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia and Daniel Nestor of Canada, who defeated third-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 6-4, 7-5 in the other semifinal match. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Wikileaks document shows U.S. concern over Taiwan's export controls

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) The United States urged Taiwan to tighten its export controls in 2009 after a Taiwanese company sold high-tech items to Iran earlier that year, according to a leaked U.S. document released by the website Wikileaks.

Officials of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , the U.S. representative office in Taiwan in the absence of official bilateral diplomatic ties, urged Taiwan at the time to give greater priority to its export controls.

It said Taiwan's performance in the way its export controls were managed lagged far behind places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea, according to the cable dated Aug. 13, 2009 that was sent by the AIT to the U.S. State Department.

The cable, released on Jan. 25 by Wikileaks, showed that AIT officials met with Su Chi, then-National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general, Vice Economic Affairs Minister Lin Sheng-chung and Office of Homeland Security Director Chang Chih-Yu, to discuss the matter.

The visits came after Taiwan-based Heli-Ocean Technology Co. sold 108 Swiss-made nuclear-related transducers to Iran via China in early 2009.

Though the product was not listed on any embargo list of sensitive commodities, several U.S. Congressmen expressed concern over the sale in December 2009.

In response to the U.S. complaints, Chang was quoted as saying in the cable that Taiwan's top priority was controlling commodities exported to China rather than overall export controls for goods shipped to other countries, such as Iran or North Korea.

The cable was the first AIT-related document released by Wikileaks, which announced that it will release in stages 251,287 cables originating from 274 U.S. embassies between Dec. 28, 1966 to Feb. 28, 2010, including 3,456 cables that were sent between the U.S. State Department and the AIT. (By Chris Wang) Enditem/ls 

Agency anniversary marks two decades of cross-strait exchanges

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) , Taiwan's top China policy-making agency, celebrated its 20th anniversary Friday and looked back on the roller-coaster ride of cross-strait exchanges during that period.

"It takes enormous patience to handle cross-strait affairs, which had never been an easy task, " President Ma Ying-jeou said at the anniversary ceremony.

Taiwan-China relations have changed a lot during the past three decades. Late President Chiang Ching-kuo declared his "three noes" policy of "no contact, no compromise, no negotiation" when the United States normalized relations with China in 1979. Last year, more than 1 million Chinese tourists visited Taiwan and more than 260,000 Chinese spouses were living in Taiwan.

Ma said his China policy, which advocates cross-strait detente and forging exchanges with China based on the so-called "1992 Consensus" has taken Taiwan on the right track, evidenced by relaxed tension across the strait and the 15 agreements signed between the two sides.

The situation was very different before Ma, who served in 1988 as executive secretary of a mainland affairs task force under the Executive Yuan -- the predecessor of the MAC -- took office in May 2008.

The institutionalized framework of cross-strait dialogues and meetings were marred by a visit to the U.S. by former ROC President Lee Teng-hui in 1995, Taiwan's first direct presidential election in 1996 and the 2000-2008 administration of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), during which China opted to have dialogue with the then-opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and ignore the DPP-led government.

"Not until my presidential campaign in 2007 did I have an opportunity to call for a resumption of cross-strait exchanges, " Ma said at the ceremony, which was attended by several former MAC chairmen, including former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi and Chen Ming-tung, who headed the council during the DPP administration.

Noticeably absent was DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, who served as MAC chairwoman from 2000-2004. Tsai and her party have been formulating a new China policy of their own and have been trying to establish direct dialogue with China.

"Like it or not, we have to face the fact that China has become the second-largest economy in the world, " Ma said, adding that while Taiwan will keep shoring up its defensive capability, it hopes never to be at war with China. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Thursday, January 27, 2011

MAC advises Chinese philanthropist on controversial trip

Taipei, Jan. 27 (CNA) Taiwan's top China policy-making agency advised a Chinese billionaire to act in a moral manner after the tycoon embarked upon a high-profile and controversial philanthropic trip Thursday during which he plans to donate up to NT$500 million (US$17.22 million) to Taiwan's needy.

Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao gave away NT$6.7 million-worth of "red envelopes" that day in the northern county of Hsinchu, the first stop of his philanthropic trip, to local disadvantaged families, in cooperation with the county government.

The 43-year-old is known for carrying out highly publicized philanthropic trips around China, using the schtick of a piled-up "wall of banknotes" that he then hands out. He has been quoted as saying that he likes to make donations in a high-profile manner because he hopes his actions will be recognized by the public and will inspire people to carry out acts of philanthropy of their own.

"The way Chen conducts his philanthropy has caused challenges for both the government and the underprivileged, " Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Minister Liu Te-hsun said in a press briefing.

Chen has not violated any laws, though, so there is no way for the government to interfere in the matter, he said, adding that the underprivileged will have to decide for themselves whether or not accepting his cash will cause them to lose their dignity.

"We will certainly condemn Chen's behavior if his trip is found to come with any political motive, " Liu said.

Liu's comment came after Chen was stopped by several poor people begging for cash during his trip to Hsinchu.

Such behavior of the local poor, as well as the extensive media coverage and involvement of local governments in Chen's stunt, have all made the trip controversial. Some Taiwanese county governments and opposition party officials have voiced opposition to his donation plans in Taiwan, raising concern that his high-profile donation manner might hurt the recipients' feelings or dignity.

Meanwhile, Chen's cancellation of his business itinerary that morning also raised doubts, because he was granted entry to Taiwan as a business professional and was supposed to participate in business activities during his stay under the regulations governing cross-strait travel.

Chen is scheduled to visit the central county of Nantou and the eastern county of Hualien during the remainder of his trip. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

`Working poor' phenomenon worries labor rights advocates

Taipei, Jan. 27 (CNA) The "working poor" phenomenon in Taiwan remains a concern, despite the latest official statistics showing that the unemployment rate has fallen to below 5 percent, labor rights advocates said Thursday.

"If there is one word that can describe Taiwan's labor environment in 2010, it would be the `working poor phenomenon, ' which could haunt Taiwanese workers for a long time, " Sun Yu-lien, secretary-general of the Taiwan Labor Front, said in a press conference.

Taiwan's unemployment rate was lowered to 4.67 percent last December, showing that Premier Wu Den-yih has fulfilled his pledge early last year to narrow the jobless rate to below 5 percent.

However, the local average monthly wage of NT$42,141 (US$1451) in 2010 has fallen to the 1998 level, and the number of workers who were paid less than NT$20,000 (US$689) per month has reached 1.38 million, around 12.4 percent of Taiwan's total workforce of 11.1 million, Sun said, citing statistics released by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).

The "working poor" are defined in the United States as persons who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force during the year (working or looking for work) , but whose incomes fell below the official poverty level. The term has not been clearly defined in Taiwan.

The government did lower the jobless rate, but it failed to tackle the issue of the working poor, which could ultimately lead to a wide range of social problems such as low birth rate and high crime rate, Sun said.

The numbers show that Taiwanese workers received low wages despite their average working hours per year ranking among the top five in the world, said Huang Shu-ying, a legislator of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

On average, she said, a Taiwanese worker tallied 2,154 working hours in 2008, 51 percent more than a German worker's 1,432 hours in the same year, although the German worker's salary was three times higher.

"Without a doubt, Taiwan's labor environment has been deteriorating. It is going to take joint efforts by different agencies of the Cabinet, rather than only the Council of Labor Affairs, to solve the problem, " said Chang Feng-yi, executive director of the Taiwan Labor and Social Policy Research Association.

Chang also warned of the increasing rate of unemployed university graduates. There were more than 100,000 university graduates who were not employed for at least 12 months in Taiwan last year, which accounted for over 45 percent of the unemployed.

The number suggests that Taiwan's high education policy might not be well-connected to its labor policy and market, Chang said, since more than 160 local universities have produced too many graduates for the labor market to absorb. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Taiwan aborigines want to reclaim land in government hands

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) A Taiwan aboriginal tribe will stage a protest Friday in an effort to reclaim their traditional territory which they said had been illegally seized by the government and the former Japanese colonial authorities for over 100 years.

Aborigine rights advocates and people of the Amis, one of Taiwan's 14 indigenous tribes, are scheduled to gather in front of the Presidential Office Friday to demand an official apology and respect for the aborigines' basic rights, which include land rights, Namoh Nofu Pacidal, one of the organizers of the overnight protest, told a press conference.

As the island's first residents, Taiwan aborigines effectively owned the island's mountainous areas until the Japanese colonial period from 1895-1945 and the takeover by the Kuomintang authorities after World War II, Nofu said.

Except for the eight years between 2000 and 2008, Taiwan has been ruled by a Kuomintang government since 1945.

Due to the influx of the Han people, modernization and changes in Taiwan's society, the indigenous peoples had no choice but to leave their lands and try to earn a living in the cities, ultimately became "tribes in exile, " said Tibusungue Vayayana, a professor at National Taiwan Normal University.

There were 512,701 aborigines in Taiwan as of December 2010, according to the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior. The number accounts for approximately 2.2 percent of Taiwan's population of 23 million.

Thirty-six point six percent of them are Amis, the largest of the 14 tribes recognized by the Taiwan government.

Vayayana claimed the Taiwan government was even worse than the Japanese, who tried to "civilize" the aborigines but designated the mountains as a "reservation, " adding that the Taiwan authorities incorporated tribal lands into state property.

The advocates also condemned the government's attempts to develop eastern Taiwan, where the majority of aborigine population reside nowadays, granting build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts without taking into account the land rights and living conditions of the aborigines.

That was why the group also demanded an immediate moratorium on development projects in the mountainous area and eastern Taiwan.

The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) , Taiwan's government agency overseeing aboriginal affairs, has not had dialogues with the advocates and has ignored the group's requests, said Oto Micyang, executive secretary of the Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition of Taiwan (IPACT).

The draft of the Indigenous Autonomy Act failed to pass the legislature this year and the contents of the draft were not consistent with the existing Indigenous Peoples Basic Law, either, Micyang added.

"It's unfortunate that the respect for indigenous rights has gone backwards during this administration. And we want to change that, " he said.

Well-known local singer/actress Francesca Kao, who is also known by her aboriginal name of Paicu Yatauyungana, was among the advocates despite her Tsou tribe origin. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Taiwan's international aid programs now more consistent: ICDF

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) Improved cross-Taiwan Strait relations have helped Taiwan maintain consistency in its international assistance programs, despite China's continued interference in United Nations-affiliated organizations, an official said Wednesday.

"The diplomatic truce that President Ma Ying-jeou advocated has made a difference. We don't have to worry about losing diplomatic allies now, so we are able to focus on long-term development of our international assistance programs, " said Lee Pai-po, Deputy Secretary-General of Taiwan's International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF).

Established in 1996, the ICDF is the principal administrator of Taiwan's development projects abroad, providing assistance to partner countries to develop human resources and achieve socio-economic growth.

The organization has sent medical, agricultural and technical missions to more than 30 countries, including Taiwan's 23 official diplomatic allies, and provides assistance in lending and investment, technical cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and international education and training.

Taiwan has said that the effort is its way of paying back the international community for its humanitarian aid and cash relief to Taiwan from the end of the World War II to 1975.

Because of Taiwan and China's diplomatic war in the past, Taiwan's overseas missions had to worry about the stability of the country's foreign relations all the time, Lee said on the sidelines of a ceremony to launch the book "Endless Love. " The publication documents the ICDF's development programs in various countries.

"Once Taiwan severs diplomatic ties with a country, we have to completely pull out of that country, " Lee said.

The current administration's focus on transparency also makes the ICDF's job easier, according to Lee. In the past, cash donations, particularly to developing countries, caused a lot of trouble such as corruption, he said.

Under Taiwan's new policy, a "program-oriented" approach has been adopted in international assistance, and direct investments in infrastructure are no longer made, he said.

The previous policy was open to corruption and management problems but the new approach has helped the ICDF to better manage its annual budget of NT$3 billion, he said.

However, Lee said, Taiwan is still facing difficulties with multilateral aid, especially with those programs that involve U.N.-affiliated organizations, due to the sensitive political issue of the "one China principle" that China insists on.

He said there has been more room for Taiwan to maneuver in international and regional organizations in which both Taiwan and China have membership, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) , European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) , Asian Development Bank (APB) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). (By Chris Wang) Enditem /pc

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

U.S. keeps Taiwan in mind in joint statement: envoy

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) The United States did everything it could to protect Taiwan's interests in its joint statement with China issued last week during Chinese President Hu Jintao's official visit to Washington, a U.S. envoy said Tuesday.

The U.S. "purposefully constructed a document that in no way violates any of Taiwan's interests... We kept Taiwan in mind during the process of negotiating the document, " American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt told reporters after briefing President Ma Ying-jeou on Hu's visit.

In the U.S.-China Joint Statement released by U.S. President Barack Obama and Hu Jan. 20, the U.S. states that it "follows its one China policy and abides by the principles of the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques." Obama also mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act in his talks with Hu.

Burghardt, whose Jan. 23-26 visit is his 10th to Taiwan, said the U.S. blocked China's attempt to secure a communique with the U.S., as well its intention to "have repeated references to the phrase `core interests'" in the joint statement, because the phrase has caused difficulties and misunderstandings for the U.S. in the past.

"The result is a document that in no way breaks any new ground on any issues that would be a concern for Taiwan, " said Burghardt.

He also clarified a paragraph in the statement that says the U.S. would like to see Taiwan and China "increase dialogue and interaction in `economic, political and other fields, '" saying that the U.S. neither plays any role as a mediator nor has any interest in acting as a mediator.

The pace, timing and subject of the negotiations are up to the two sides to decide, he said, adding that "political" talks do not necessarily refer to sovereignty issues. According to the U.S. definition, he said, discussion of Taiwan's international participation is a political issue.

He reassured Taiwan of the friendship of the U.S., describing the country as "the best friend Taiwan has" and an ally that takes the issue of Taiwan's international participation seriously. He also said Washington has offered a lot more assistance than people might imagine.

On U.S. arm sales to Taiwan, Burghardt underlined the extensive bilateral military-to-military exchanges between the two sides and urged Taiwan to "pay more attention to the little things" rather than focusing solely on new arms packages.

In response to a reporter's question about U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent comment in Beijing that the U.S. could re-examine its arm sales to Taiwan if the security situation changes in the future, Burghardt said it is unlikely to be a scenario that will happen for many decades.

China now has an offensive posture that is not only limited to the missiles aimed at Taiwan but also includes other weapons, cyber warfare and its Anti-Secession Law, while Taiwan has a defensive posture, Burghardt said.

If Taiwan's needs in the future change along with its posture, the U.S. will make necessary adjustments to its stance on Taiwan's new requests because U.S. military aid to Taiwan is always based on Taiwan's perception of what it needs, he said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Atmosphere not good for resumption of TIFA talks: U.S. official

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) The atmosphere is not good for the United States (U.S.) and Taiwan to resume talks on further trade liberalization, in light of Taiwan's removal of U.S. beef from supermarket shelves because of a banned drug, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

"Press conferences about ractopamine...ordering the removal of beef from supermarkets live on national television and creating a public misperception that there is a risk to public health, when in fact these products are safe and consumed around the world every day, is not what I would call a good atmosphere, " Raymond Burghardt, Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said at a media roundtable.

The diplomat was commenting on the postponement of a new round of talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) , which Taiwanese officials had said would be held in the last week of January.

The TIFA is an official framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties. TIFA talks have been suspended since 2007 mainly because of a controversy over beef imports from the U.S.

The U.S. decided to postpone the talks further when Taiwan blocked some shipments of U.S. beef last week after it was found that they contained residues of ractopamine, an animal feed additive that promotes leanness.

Taiwan regulations do not allow for any residues of ractopamine in meat.

Burghardt reiterated that Taiwan had considered lifting the ractopamine ban in 2007 after its own scientific research assessed that the use of the additive was safe. Taiwan even notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its plan and stated an actual number for its planned maximum residue level (MRL), he said.

But massive protests from local pig farmers changed everything, and the proposal by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Council of Agriculture (COA) was never implemented, he noted.

"There is a distinction between how imported products and domestic products are handled," he said.

On TIFA talks, Burghardt said it was Taiwan officials who unilaterally made the announcement that the TIFA meeting would be held in January.

The U.S. "never announced when to hold the TIFA Joint Council" but intended to engage in exchanges with Taiwan on various trade issues.

He did not offer an opinion on when the TIFA talks might commence.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) also said Tuesday it does not believe that "the current environment is conducive to holding productive high-level discussions, " in an email received by CNA. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Current environment not right for holding TIFA talks: USTR

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) The current environment is not conducive for the United States and Taiwan to hold a new round of high-level Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has said.

"We had been hoping to resume high-level talks of our TIFA Joint Council early this year. However, we do not believe that the current environment is conducive to holding productive high-level discussions, " said Nkenge Harmon, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for public and media affairs, in an e-mail received on Tuesday.

The TIFA is an official framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties. TIFA talks have been suspended since 2007 mainly because of a controversy over beef imports from the U.S.

The two countries had hoped to resume the suspended negotiations in the last week of January.

The U.S. decided to postpone the talks, however, when Taiwan blocked some shipments of U.S. beef after finding that they contained residues of ractopamine, an animal feed additive banned in Taiwan that promotes leanness.

Economic Affairs Minister Shih Yen-shiang said Monday that the resumption of talks were "still under negotiation" by the two sides.

Premier Wu Den-yih said Sunday that he hoped the dispute over ractopamine would not impede the progress and the agenda of the TIFA talks because the framework agreement would be beneficial to both sides.

The USTR office did not comment on whether the ractopamine issue was related to progress on the resumption of TIFA negotiations.

"The United States remains committed to enhancing bilateral trade relations with Taiwan, " Harmon wrote. "We will continue our ongoing engagement with Taiwan on the full range of important bilateral trade and economic issues and we will consider the matter of when to resume high-level TIFA talks."

A spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the U.S. representative office in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties, urged Taiwan on Jan. 15 to adopt a Maximum Residue Level (MRL) standard for the drug used by other countries, including the U.S., Australia and South Korea. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

No Taiwanese injured in Moscow airport blast: MOFA

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) No Taiwanese national was injured in the explosion that ripped through a Moscow airport on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reported Tuesday.

"All Taiwanese businessmen and students currently in Russia are safe, according to our representative office in Moscow, " MOFA spokesman James Chang said at a press briefing.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at Domodedovo Airport, Moscow's busiest airport, on Monday. At least 35 people were killed and 180 were wounded in the blast as of Tuesday morning Taiwan time, according to wire reports.

There are up to 300 Taiwanese nationals currently living in Russia, Chang said, including 150 students, 50 businessmen and dozens of diplomatic and trade officials.

Of this group, 75 students and 40 businessmen live in the Greater Moscow area.

The travel alert level for the Russian Federation remained yellow, the second lowest level in the MOFA's four color system, Chang said, but the ministry was monitoring the latest situation and would raise the alert level if needed. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Saturday, January 22, 2011

DPP votes to determine presidential nominee through national poll

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will hold a national poll to determine its nominee for the 2012 presidential election after a revision of its election nomination rules was passed Saturday at a plenary session.

The proposal, recommended by the party's Central Executive Committee (CEC) , won by a 227-84 margin at the session, and will replace the previous system of combining the results of a party primary and a public opinion poll.

The new format will also be used to nominate the party's candidates in legislative, mayoral, and city councilor elections. Nominations of at-large legislators, who are not directly elected by voters, will be determined by a nomination committee.

DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said the revised mechanism will help preserve party unity, which many in the party believe is critical to the DPP's chances of victory in the 2012 presidential race.

Many DPP members have suggested that a hotly contested party primary to determine the nominee for the 2008 presidential campaign caused irreparable harm among the candidates and ultimately hurt its chances in the general election.

The negative effect of "proxy" members, which has plagued the party in the past, also swayed the party to reject the idea of an intraparty vote.

Opponents of the newly-adopted format said the new regulation prevented party members from exercising their rights.

Former Vice President Annette Lu, whose recommendation to retain the current format was dropped during a CEC meeting last week, tried to make a last push for her proposal Saturday before leaving the plenary early and publicly expressing her discontent.

In addition to Lu, who is widely believed to be interested in running for the presidency, Tsai, and the DPP's 2008 presidential and vice presidential candidates, Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang, are all said to be interested in pursuing the presidency in 2012. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan-U.S.-China ties undergoing fundamental change: analysts

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) A "metamorphosis" in cross-Taiwan Strait development could bring a fundamental change to the triangular relations among Taiwan, China and the United States, with Washington's influence fading, analysts said Saturday.

"The Taiwan issue is not an obstacle to U.S.-China relations now. The increasing U.S. support for China's position on the issue is a result of the metamorphosis of cross-strait relations, " said Chang Kuo-cheng, a researcher at Taiwan Thinktank, in a forum on U.S.-China relations after Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the United States.

China does not need U.S. pressure to influence Taiwan at present because both sides of the strait have had extensive direct engagement in recent years, and Taiwan has willingly opted to position itself closer to China, Chang said.

The development has led the U.S. to slow its pace of arms sales to Taiwan, he said, adding that Taiwan would not likely gain Washington's full support in future political talks with China if the current trend were to continue.

The U.S.-China Joint Statement in 2009, which was released during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to China and stated for the first time that the U.S. respected China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, suggesting that Taiwan and Tibet are Chinese territories, had caused great harm to Taiwan.

The statement could be included, along with the three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, as part of U.S. policy in the future, Chang said.

Huang Wei-feng, a researcher at Academia Sinica, found it strange that Taiwan's government applauded the U.S.-China joint statement in 2011 even though it was almost identical to the 2009 statement that everyone thought had harmed Taiwan.

Huang also questioned Washington's encouragement of Taiwan to further cross-strait interaction "in economic, political, and other fields, " which he said was a violation of the U.S.' "Six Assurances" made by the Reagan Administration in 1982 that says the U.S. would not play a mediation role between Taiwan and China.

Lai I-chung, a researcher at Taiwan Thinktank, urged people to pay attention to the differences between remarks made by Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the past week.

Clinton said on Jan. 14 that the U.S. approach toward Taiwan "continues to be guided by its one-China policy based on the three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act" and the U.S. "seeks to encourage and see more dialogue and exchanges between the two sides, as well as reduced military tensions and deployments."

Lai said, however, that Obama did not mention the Taiwan Relations Act and the Chinese military deployments in his remarks and went on to encourage political talks between both sides of the strait.

It appeared that China has excluded the South China Sea as part of its core interests after Hu Jintao only mentioned Taiwan and Tibet during his Washington trip, said Lin Cheng-yi, a researcher at Academia Sinica. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

AIT, MOFA mum on reported cancellation of TIFA talks

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Saturday both declined to confirm the reported postponement of a new round of trade talks between the United States and Taiwan.

The meeting under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), originally slated for late this month in Taipei, was canceled by the U.S. after some American beef products found to contain residue from an animal drug were taken off the market, Taiwanese economic officials were quoted as saying Saturday morning.

"We are still examining the possibility of resuming the talks, " AIT spokesman Chris Kavanagh said Saturday afternoon.

MOFA spokesman James Chang said his ministry had not received any information about the talks.

The TIFA, signed in September 1994, provides an official framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

The two countries, however, have not held any TIFA talks since 2007 due chiefly to a conflict over a Taiwanese ban on U.S. beef imports over mad cow disease concern.

The United States urged Taiwan last week to follow in the steps of other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, and set a maximum residual level (MRL) of the animal drug ractopamine allowable in meat.

If the meeting is not held next week, it could take place as early as the second week of February since the week-long Lunar New Year vacation starts Feb. 2. (By Chris Wang) Enditem/ls

Friday, January 21, 2011

Taiwan players made Australia Open women doubles third round

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei and Chuang Chia-jung upset higher-ranked opponents while Chan Yung-jan cruised to a win with her Polish partner as both teams advanced to the third round of the women's doubles Friday at the Australian Open.

Veteran doubles specialists Hsieh and Chuang beat the 13th-seeded Russian pair of Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonereva 6-2, 6-2 to set up an encounter with unseeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland and Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany.

Schnyder and Groenefeld knocked out the fourth-seeded Spanish duo of Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the second round.

Hsieh and Chuang, considered along with Chan to be Taiwan's most accomplished female doubles players, have teamed up in many events on the women's tour but have never partnered in a Grand Slam event.

Chan and Agnieszka Radwanska breezed past the Swedish duo Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-2.

The three women are hoping that Melbourne will prove lucky for them again after having made strong runs there in the women's doubles in previous years.

Chan and Chuang were finalists in the event in 2007 and semifinalists a year later, while Chan and Hsieh teamed up to reach the third round of the year's first Grand Slam in 2009.

On the men's side, world No. 37 Lu Yen-hsun, who lost his opening round singles match on Monday, had his stay in Melbourne end Friday after losing in the second round of the men's doubles.

Lu and German partner Rainer Schuettler lost 6-2, 6-3 to the fifth-seeded Polish pair of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski.

In the mixed doubles first round, Chuang Chia-jung teamed up with Belgium Dick Norman for a 6-3, 3-6, 13-11 victory over Australia's Alicia Molik and Peter Luczak.

Aside from Lu, the only other Taiwanese player entered in a main singles draw of the Australian Open -- Chang Kai-chen on the woman's side -- was also eliminated in the first round. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

AIT chairman to brief Taiwan on Chinese leader's U.S. visit

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , will arrive in Taipei Sunday for a four-day visit, during which he will meet with President Ma Ying-jeou, the AIT said Friday in a press release.

The AIT did not specify the purpose of Burghardt's trip, but according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he will brief Taiwan officials on the latest developments regarding Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed Thursday in a joint press conference with Hu and later in a U.S.-China joint statement that the U.S. is committed to "a one-China policy based on the three U.S.-China communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act."

According to Jason Yuan, Taiwan's top representative to the U.S., Washington had briefed Taiwan on the state visit prior to Hu's arrival and had agreed that in the future it would brief Taiwan before and immediately after important U.S.-China meetings.

Burghardt's visit to Taiwan Jan. 23-26 will be his 10th since his appointment as AIT chairman in February 2006, said the AIT, the U.S. representative office in Taiwan in the absence of official bilateral diplomatic ties.

Burghardt will also meet with several major figures in politics and business during his stay, the AIT said.

Burghardt was the director of AIT's Taipei office from 1999 to 2001. He is currently the director of East-West Seminars at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, a position he holds concurrently with his AIT post. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

European countries mulling establishing offices in Taiwan: official

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Several European countries are considering establishing offices in Taiwan, as the country has lowered tensions with China and has been granted visa-waiver privileges for the European Union, Deputy Foreign Minister Shen Lyushun said Friday.

With the visa-waiver and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China both going into effect in January, many European countries are trying to gain leverage and several of them might set up offices in Taiwan, Shen said at a luncheon hosted by the European Chambers of Commerce in Taipei (ECCT).

He declined to specify to which countries he was referring, saying that "it is too early to announce anything."

The diplomat, who is familiar with European affairs, having previously served in Geneva and Brussels, also said two more European countries or oversea territories are on the way to granting Taiwanese passport holders visa exemptions, which will push the total number of countries extending the privilege to Taiwan to 99.

The EU visa-waiver was one of Taiwan's great diplomatic accomplishments of the past year, Shen said in his speech, titled "New chapter in EU-Taiwan relations."

Shen highlighted Taiwan's extensive efforts to make Taipei the most business- and tourism-friendly city in East Asia, with measures including the signing of the ECFA and agreements with China on shipping and aviation, as well as on intellectual property rights.

These measures can all help foreign businessmen in Taiwan, he told the ECCT.

Shen said that the next tangible target in EU-Taiwan development will be the signing of trade enhancement measures, which he described as "something similar to a free trade agreement."

He acknowledged that the topic could be "politically sensitive" due to possible opposition from China, but said the EU and Taiwan could use a block-building approach, starting signing other agreements on issues such as avoidance of double-taxation and investment promotion.

"At the end of the day, the lack of diplomatic ties still hurts Taiwan," Shen said as he urged European countries to be more active on the issue. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Thursday, January 20, 2011

U.S.-China statement reflects consistent cross-strait policy: MAC

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) The United States has remained consistent in its cross-Taiwan Strait policy in a U.S.-China joint statement released Thursday (Taiwan time) that highlights Taiwan's efforts to establish institutionalized negotiations with China, a Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) official said that day.

"The U.S. recognizes the establishment of cross-strait institutionalized negotiations in the statement. And that is why it encourages Taiwan and China to set up more lines of communication, " said Liu Te-shun, vice minister of the MAC -- Taiwan's China policy-making agency, referring to the statement released during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to Washington.

In the statement, the U.S. applauds the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed by Taiwan and China last June and welcomes the "new lines of communication" that have developed between them.

The U.S. also states that it looks forward to efforts by both sides of the strait to increase dialogue and interaction in "economic, political and other fields."

Liu did not say whether the U.S. is trying to help speed up the process of cross-strait exchanges and encourage the two sides to start political talks. He also played down the importance of the term "new lines of communication."

Liu said Taiwan's government focuses on economic affairs and pragmatic issues in its dealings with China, leaving political matters aside.

Comparing the new joint statement and the one issued during U.S. President Barack Obama's 2009 visit to China, Liu said U.S. policy on cross-strait issues remains consistent, as it follows Washington's one China policy and abides by the principles of the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques.

Obama did highlight the institutionalized cross-strait negotiations as a good foundation for bilateral engagement, Liu said, adding that the U.S. has also expressed its expectations for the development of cross-strait relations in a "more active way." (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwanese player advances in Australian tennis open men's doubles

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun teamed up with Germany's Rainer Schuettler Thursday for a grueling straight-sets victory to advance to the men's doubles second round in the Australian tennis open tournament.

Lu and Schuettler beat Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Alexander Peya of Austria 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in two hours and one minute at Melbourne Park.

It was the first win for Lu, who ranks No. 37 in men's singles in the world and No. 110 in men's doubles, in this year's first Grand Slam event after his elimination in the men's singles first round.

The 27-year-old made it through the men's doubles first round in the Australian Open for the first time since 2005, when he reached the third round. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

U.S. encouragement for dialogue with China not pressure: MOFA

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) The United States' encouragement for a continued reduction of cross-Taiwan Strait tensions was made with good intentions and should not be interpreted as "pressure" to Taiwan to engage in political talks with China, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.

The U.S. stated in the U.S-China joint statement released Thursday during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit that it looked forward to further cross-Strait interaction "in economic, political, and other fields."

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has said that he did not plan to engage in any political talks with China in his first four-year term and he preferred to focus on economic issues in bilateral exchanges.

In response to a reporter's question at a press briefing, MOFA spokesman James Chang played down the implication of the joint statement and said that Taiwan has always paced itself in its exchanges and negotiation with China, and he was not in a position to speculate on the U.S. position.

"However, encouragement is not pressure. And I don't think we should interpret the U.S. intention as a pressure, " he said.

Differences between what U.S. President Barack Obama said in his joint press conference with Hu early Thursday morning regarding the Taiwan issue and the text of a U.S.-China joint statement released after the conference also raised question.

In the joint statement, the U.S. reaffirmed that it "follows its one China policy and abides by the principles of the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques" on the Taiwan issue. Obama said in the press conference that he "reaffirmed our commitment to a one-China policy based on the three U.S.-China communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act."

Chang did not comment on why the U.S. did not place the Taiwan Relations Act, which has been seen by Taiwan as a strong U.S. commitment of partnership, in the content of the joint statement.

On record, the U.S. followed the same pattern as Obama's state visit to China in 2009 by mentioning the word "Taiwan Relations Act" in the press conference but omitting it in the official joint statement.

Compared with what Obama said in his 2009 visit, Chang said Taiwan was happy with a Taiwan-related statement from the U.S. this time because Obama not only mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act and reaffirmed the U.S. security commitment but also praised the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) for the first time and encouraged continued bilateral dialogues.

Taiwan expressed disappointment over the China-U.S. joint statement in 2009, in which the two countries underscored "the importance of the Taiwan issue in U.S.-China relations" and "respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity." (By Chris Wang) Enditem/cs

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taiwanese players ousted from Australian Open singles draws

Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) Taiwan's Chang Kai-chen lost in the opening round of the women's singles at the Australian Open on Tuesday, leaving Taiwan without any players left in the main draws of the singles event at the first Grand Slam event of the year.

Chang was no match for Serbian world No. 58 Bojana Jovanovski, losing 7-5, 6-1 in 81 minutes to exit the Australian Open in the first round for the second consecutive year in a row.

Chang, who turned 20 last week, had opportunities to make a greater impact on the match but was only able to convert two of eight break points against Jovanovski while having her own serve broken six times.

She had been Taiwan's only singles hopeful in the women's draw after Chan Yung-jan failed to make it out of the qualifying round.

On Monday, Taiwan's only player in the men's singles draw, Lu Yen-hsun, fell 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to Gilles Simon of France in his opening round match.

Taiwanese players must now perform well in the doubles competition if they hope to extend their stay in Melbourne.

Lu will pair with Rainer Schuettler of Germany against the Swedish-Austrian duo of Simon Aspalin and Alexander Peya in the first round of the men's doubles.

On the women's side, Chan Yung-jan will team with Polish partner Agnieszka Radwanska to take on Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in her opener, while compatriots Chuang Chia-jung and Hsieh Su-Wei will face Australian duo Jade Hopper and Monika Wejnert.

Chang Kai-chen is not entered in the doubles tournament. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

U.S. will not abandon Taiwan: American scholar

Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) Any assumption that the United States would ultimately abandon Taiwan would be far off the mark because Taiwan could play an important role in the triangular relations among the U.S., China and Taiwan, visiting U.S. scholars said Tuesday.

"The most important part of the triangle of course is Taiwan, standing between these two great powers and improving relations," said Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for public policy research, in an interview with Central News Agency.

He said Taiwan can help the U.S. by getting China to open more but Taiwan will not be able to maintain peaceful openness between the two major powers if it cannot defend itself.

That is why the U.S. should make sure that Taiwan has strong defensive capability, he said.

"There is approximately no chance that the U.S. will abandon Taiwan," he said.

Taiwan is strategically useful to the U.S., and support for Taiwan is an extension of the U.S. upholding its own values and a projection of its values to free people around the world, he added.

"That's the way that ultimately that needs to be understood by the PRC," he said.

In the same interview, Dan Blumenthal, Director of Asian Studies at the AEI, said that if the U.S. does not take a step in the next few months to support Taiwan -- whether on arm sales or deeper bilateral economic integration -- people in Taiwan will start to question the U.S.' role as a reliable partner.

"The U.S. is at a critical juncture," he said.

On the Taiwan-China issue, Blumenthal said that there are many developed countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain, which have territorial issues but they all try to settle the disputes by democratic means, such as referendums or peace negotiations.

China has said that the Taiwan question touches its core interests of sovereignty and territorial integrity and is fundamental to China-U.S. relations.

But Blumenthal said China will not be universally accepted as a truly great power "if it does not change its attitude on Taiwan."

He predicted that there will be no tangible outcome of the state visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is scheduled to arrive in Washington Wednesday.

The visit holds more meaning for Hu on the domestic political front because he is scheduled to leave office next year, said Blumenthal, who served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia in the U.S. Secretary of Defense's Office of International Security Affairs from 2002-2004.

Blumenthal said he would refer to U.S.-China relations as a rivalry rather than a cold war.

The best way to avoid long-term rivalry would be through democratic reform in China, because it currently has all the "hardware" to be a successful power but not the "software" of human rights and individual liberty, he said.

The U.S. tended to think that as China became more integrated into the world economy, China would inevitably change and evolve into a democracy, but things have not worked that way because political reform is still not happening, he said.

The symbolism of Hu meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner, while the 2010 Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo is still in jail in China shows the world that China cannot continue on its current path, he said.

On the significance of Taiwan's live-fire missile drill one day before Hu's arrival in the U.S., Blumenthal said he saw it as more coincidental than provocative.

There was no similarity between that drill and China's test of its J-20 stealth fighter jet during U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent visit to China, he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Monday, January 17, 2011

NTU tries to settle dorm dispute between local, foreign students

Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) National Taiwan University (NTU) has responded to student anger over the mismanagement of its dormitories and a dispute between local and foreign students by pledging to investigate the situation and hold those responsible accountable.

NTU will investigate a female Taiwanese student's allegation that she was threatened by a group of foreign exchange students in a dormitory, said Feng Yen, dean of student affairs at the school, one of the top universities in Taiwan.

The female student with the alias "nqcjd31d" said last week in a post on, a popular bulletin board system (BBS) managed by NTU, that a Danish girl who lives next to her tried to break into her room with a group of foreign and local male students and verbally threatened her.

That came after she protested the noise the group was making at a late night drinking party, but the school did nothing after she complained, the local student said.

The allegation sparked the outrage of local students, who posted online the names and nationalities of the foreign students involved within hours.

More than 100 students gathered outside the dormitory late on the night of Jan. 15 in protest of the school's inaction.

Feng apologized Monday morning on behalf of the school for its mismanagement of the girls' dormitory, which is run by an outside contractor that is required to control the access of male visitors after midnight.

He also vowed that NTU would hold those involved in the incident accountable and said the school did not rule out suspending its exchange program with the university the Danish girl came from, pending a thorough investigation.

The Danish student, who reportedly left Taiwan on Monday, posted a response early Monday on the BBS via a friend, saying that it was the accuser who had been harassing her the whole semester and that the accuser tried to break into her room.

The NTU Student Association said Monday afternoon that it was satisfied with the school's response and pledge, and stressed that the protest was not directed at foreign students.

"Breaking into anyone's room and delivering verbal threats are not tolerable, but the real issue in the incident was the bad sound insulation of the dormitory. In that building, the person next door can hear you clearly even if you speak at a normal volume, " said the association's Shih Yen-ting.

NTU Vice President Chen Tai-jan said the incident was an individual case that touched on two issues -- cultural differences and dormitory management -- and the school was determined to solve the latter.

"Understanding cultural differences is a learning process for university students, local and foreign students alike, " he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan's Lu eliminated in first round of Australian tennis open

Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun was eliminated in the first round of the Australian Open men's singles by France's Gilles Simon on Monday, his fifth defeat in the opening round of the year's first Grand Slam event in seven career appearances.

Lu won the opening set in a tiebreaker after taking advantage of Simon's inconsistent serve, but a spate of unforced errors as the match progressed were too much for him to overcome in a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 defeat in just over three and a half hours.

Lu had lost his only warm-up match leading up the Australian Open last week to Simon 6-0, 6-3 in the first round of the Medibank International Sydney event, which Simon would eventually win, and the rust he showed then resurfaced in Melbourne Monday.

Lu, who is now 0-4 against Simon, had a relatively high 63 unforced errors against the Frenchmen's 35, and he hit four fewer winners than his opponent to seal his fate.

The 27-year-old Taiwanese made his deepest run at the Australian Open in 2009 when he advanced to the third round, but that would have been a nearly impossible task this year, considering his draw.

Even had he defeated the difficult Simon, a former world No. 6 who is now ranked three spots ahead of Lu at 34, he would have had to face second-seeded Roger Federer in the second round.

The third round appearance in Melbourne was Lu's best singles performance in a Grand Slam event before his surprise run to the quarterfinal round at Wimbledon last year.

Lu will now turn his attention to the men's doubles, where he will pair with Rainer Schuettler of Germany against the Swedish-Austrian duo of Simon Aspalin and Alexander Peya in the first round.

On the women's side, Chan Yung-jan will team with Polish partner Agnieszka Radwanska to take on Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the first round of the women's doubles.

Chan, 21, lost in the third round of the women's singles qualifying tournament and failed to make her fifth straight appearance in the Australian Open women's singles main draw.

Compatriots Chuang Chia-jung and Hsieh Su-Wei will meet Australian duo Jade Hopper and Monika Wejnert in the women's doubles first round.

Chang Kai-chen, Taiwan's highest ranked women's single player at 117, will be the only Taiwanese player in the women's singles this year and will face Serbian Bojana Jovanovski Tuesday in the women's singles first round. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Political events could complicate cross-strait engagements: SEF

Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) The engagements this year between Taiwan and China could become more complex because of two major upcoming political events, but the talks between the two sides are expected to continue smoothly, Taiwan's top negotiator with China said Monday.

Taiwan's presidential election in 2012 and a transfer of power in China in 2013 "could complicate cross-Taiwan Strait negotiations, but 'professionalism' has been the keyword in the talks so far, " said Chiang Pin-kung, Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) at a press conference.

"I think the talks will keep moving forward," he said.

Kuomintang President Ma Ying-jeou is seen highly likely to seek re-election next year when his four-year term expires, while Chinese President Hu Jintao, who was officially appointed to his second five-year term in 2008, is required to step down in 2013.

Chiang did not elaborate on what he thought the exact effects of the two events would be, but said cross-strait engagements are likely to become more difficult this year as "the easier part has been completed."

However, he said an investment protection agreement that was shelved in the sixth round of bilateral talks last December is expected to be signed in May or June, and both sides should have no problem reaching an agreement on trade dispute settlement this year as well.

As for agreements on trade in goods and services, they will take at least a year to negotiate due to their complexity, he added.

Meanwhile, negotiations are in progress on a proposal to allow visits to Taiwan by individual Chinese tourists, and it is expected to be implemented this year, but it will be a gradual process, he said.

He reiterated that the "1992 Consensus" -- also known as "one China, different interpretations" -- has laid the foundation for the resumption of institutionalized talks across the strait.

Chen Yunlin, Chiang's counterpart who chairs China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) , said in a meeting with Taiwanese businessmen last week that China's economic policy toward Taiwan is based on a political premise that the two sides uphold the "1992 consensus" and are opposed to the idea of Taiwan independence.

However, at Monday's press conference, Chiang made no mention of the Taiwan independence issue.

He highlighted what he described as the unprecedented achievements of the Ma Administration over the last two years, including a landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and 14 other accords with China. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Saturday, January 15, 2011

AIT urges Taiwan to allow ractopamine in meat

Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) A spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) urged Taiwan Saturday to allow the use of an animal feed additive that promotes leanness after a trade dispute over the drug between the U.S. and Taiwan resurfaced in recent days.

The United States encouraged Taiwan to "put in place import requirements consistent with best scientific research and international standards, " Chris Kavanagh said by telephone, referring to Taiwan's ban on ractopamine.

Earlier in the week, residue of the drug was detected in two batches of U.S. beef, some of which made its way onto store shelves and was sold to customers.

Ractopamine was also at the center of a dispute in 2007 when the Department of Health (DOH) and the Council of Agriculture (COA) considered lifting the ban, prompting a massive protest from local pig farmers as it would have allowed freer imports of foreign pork. The two agencies later agreed to keep the ban but proposed a revision of allowable maximum ractopamine residue (MRL) levels.

However, the revisions have not been carried out, even though it has been determined that the drug is safe and Taiwan has said it would notify the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its intention to adopt the MRL used by other countries, including the U.S., Australia and South Korea, Kavanagh said.

According to a DOH press release that same day, Taiwan has proposed adopting the MRL suggested by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization under the United Nations.

Kavanagh's comments came after similar remarks by the spokesman of the Office of the United States Trade Representative earlier that day.

The spokesman declined to comment on Taiwan's decision to pull the contaminated products from store shelves or on whether the issue will be discussed in the upcoming round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks, an official framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties. TIFA talks have been suspended since 2007 mainly because of a controversy over beef imports from the U.S. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan to seek active role in WTO this year: representative

Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) Taiwan will seek to play a more active role in the World Trade Organization (WTO) this year, Taiwan's WTO representative was quoted as saying in an interview.

Lin Yi-fu spoke about a wide range of topics, including the long-stalled Doha round of trade talks, Taiwan's plans ahead of the 10th anniversary of its WTO accession in 2012 and Taiwan's relations with China, in an interview with the WTO Center under the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER), a Taipei-based think tank.

The interview published Friday on the institute's website quoted Lin as saying that he believed the Doha round of negotiations will be completed this year.

Taiwan acceded to the WTO on Jan. 1, 2002 under the name Permanent Mission of the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen. The WTO, which currently has 153 members, generally refers to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei.

In the interview, Lin said Taiwan intended to actively participate in multilateral trade negotiations and various committees under the WTO, adding that Taiwan's delegation will seek to chair committees to boost its active participation this year.

In 2010, Lin said, delegation counselor Fang Rui-song served as chairperson of the Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, a subsidiary body of the Council for Trade in Goods.

Taiwan will also seek to play more of a leading role in several negotiating groups it has joined, such as the Recently Acceded Members (RAMs) - countries that negotiated and joined the WTO after 1995 which seeks lesser commitments in the negotiations, and Friends of A-D Negotiations (FANs) , a coalition of countries lobbying for agriculture to be treated as diverse and special, because of non-trade concerns, Lin was quoted as saying.

He also said Taiwan should try to solve trade disputes through the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism more often.

A majority of the WTO members as well as WTO Secretary-General Pascal Lamy welcomed the historic free trade pact, formally known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, signed between Taiwan and China last June, Lin said.

Member economies also paid attention to items on the agreement's "early harvest" list, the timetable of further opening of products, and whether and when the notification will be submitted to the WTO, Lin was quoted as saying.

The Doha round of negotiations, which broke down in 2008, is expected to pick up pace again after leaders expressed strong "political will" to resume and complete the talks in the G-20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forums, according to Lin.

Lin said he was optimistic about the progress of the talks and believed the negotiations will be completed this year. If not, he said, the earliest date for the talks to be completed will possibly be 2013 because the United States will hold its presidential election in 2012. (By Chris Wang) enditem/cs

Friday, January 14, 2011

Low birth rate a national threat on many levels: scholars

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou's alert last week that the low birth rate in Taiwan has become a "national security issue" was right on target as the problem could ultimately change Taiwan's social and national landscape, scholars said Friday.

"The Taiwan government should try to tackle the issue head-on, " said Chang Kuo-cheng, a researcher at Taiwan Thinktank. "It is also a good time for Taiwan to ponder the question: What kind of country it wants to be?"

A total of 166,886 babies were born in Taiwan in 2010, the lowest number in the country's recorded history, statistics released Jan. 8 by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) showed. The number translated into a birth rate of 0.721 percent in 2010, compared with 0.829 percent in 2009.

In addition, the under-15 age group made up 15.65 percent of the total population, and citizens over 65 accounted for 10.74 percent, which indicated a continuing trend toward a rapidly aging society since 2003.

In Asia, Taiwan is second only to Japan in terms of its growth as an aging society.

Population has been always the most essential factor in reviewing any country's national security situation, because it affects the strength of the military and work force, Chang said.

"It is important even in an age of high-tech warfare, " he said.

He suggested that the easiest way to solve the problem would be to encourage people to have more children, by offering them assistance and subsidies for childcare and education.

Expensive childcare and preschool education was found to be one of the major factors contributing to the declining birth rate in Taiwan, a Control Yuan report on Jan. 9 indicated.

The Taiwan government is moving to address the problem on several fronts.

President Ma has directed an inter-agency task force to fully review the situation and come up with solutions.

Meanwhile, the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) is reportedly considering an annual budget of NT$38 billion ($1.3 billion) for birth incentives and childcare support from 2012.

However, Chang suggested, the quickest solution lies elsewhere.

"Encouraging foreign immigration looks like the quickest way to solve the problem," he said.

The birth rate issue could not have come to the forefront at a better time, as Taiwan is already experiencing an influx of spouses and workers from many Southeast Asian countries, Chang said.

Taiwan authorities should take time to map out the country's future, especially its immigration policy, he said.

Citing the example of Australia, which encourages immigration of foreign nationals with expertise in social care and green technology, Chang said Taiwan could use its immigration policy to tackle the low birth rate and to complement its advantage or supplement its needs in certain industries.

"The real danger lies not in the population crisis, but in a lack of alertness and strategies for coping with social trends and changes," he said.

The low birth rate also signals a potential financial crisis for Taiwan, said Chuang Chi-ming, a professor at National Taipei University of Education.

The CEPD estimated in 2006 that Taiwan's total population will fall to eight million by 2206, a little more than one third of the current 23 million, Chuang noted.

However, given the current low birth rate, the drop could be even more dramatic, he said.

The society, education system, public infrastructure, national security and national finance of a country with eight million people are vastly different than in a country with 23 million people, he said.

"Fighting the low birth rate should be an all-out war for the government," he said. "Failure to change the trend could cause a 'financial black hole' in the future due to lower tax revenues -- and no one would be able to escape it." (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan's Lu, Chang handed tough draws at Australian Open

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun and Chang Kai-chen were handed tough draws and potential second round clashes with No. 2 seeds in the upcoming Australian Tennis Open, in the announcement Friday morning of the matchups in the men's and women's singles.

In the main draw for the Australia Open, the first grand slam event of the year, the top- seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain will face Brazilian Marcos Daniel, while top seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark will play Gisela Dulko of Argentina.

Lu, currently ranked No. 35 in the world and the highest ranked Asian male player, is scheduled to meet Gilles Simon of France, the world No. 41, in the first round and could face second-seeded Swiss star Roger Federer in the second round.

Lu lost his only career matchup against Simon in a 2009 Association of Tennis Players (ATP) event in the United States. He made his deepest run at the Australian Open in 2009 by advancing to the third round. Last year he bowed out in the first round.

Chang, Taiwan's highest ranked women's singles player at world No. 117, received a wildcard in the women's singles competition. She will meet world No. 77 Bojana Jovanovski in the first round. Chang, 20, lost all four matches that she played against the 19-year-old Serbian in the past.

If Chang makes it past the first round, she would possibly meet Vera Zvonareva of Russia, seeded second in the tournament behind Wozniacki. Chang made her Australian Open debut last year but lost in the first round.

Chan Yung-jan, who had her best Down Under memory of a runner-up finish in the 2007 Australian Open women's doubles, will have to start from the women's singles qualifying competition. The world No. 119 will meet Stephanie Foretz Gacon in the first match.

The draws for the men's and women's doubles will be announced next week, according to the organizers.

The Australian Open will be held at Melbourne Park from Jan. 17-30. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Taiwan professional baseball teams start spring training

Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) All four teams of Taiwan's professional baseball league opened spring training with different goals for the new season which sees a team changing name and several United States minor leaguers returning home.

Lamigo Monkeys, formerly known as La New Bears, the defending champion Brother Elephants, Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions and Sinon Bulls started spring training camps in various locations across the country this past week during a cold spell with temperature hovering around 10 degrees Celsius.

A record four former U.S. minor leaguers will play in the league next season, which is scheduled to start in March.

Lamigo moved its home stadium from the southern port city of Kaohsiung to Taoyuan in northern Taiwan. Changes of the team's name and its home stadium were a marketing strategy by its management and did not involve ownership alteration.

The Monkeys, which opened its spring training in Kaohsiung Tuesday before moving the second part of the camp to Taoyuan, also welcomed technical advisor Chuang Sheng-hsiung, who pitched for the Japanese professional team Lotte from 1985-1995 and was known for his knuckleball, and Kuo Yen-wen, who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 2007-2010, hoping to win its first title since 2007.

The Elephants, which opened spring training Jan. 9, set its eyes on defending its title with the addition of 26-year-old Tseng Sung-wei, a right-hander who spent three years with the Cleveland Indians from 2007-2010 before heading home, and left-hander Cheng Chi-hung, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays for four years.

The Lions, which failed to advance to the Taiwan Series last season after winning three straight titles from 2007-2009, received a boost after selecting 27-year-old Chen Yung-chi, a power hitter who played with the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates from 2004-2010, and trading for Chang Tai-shan, another well-known slugger who previously played for Sinon.

The Bulls, which was swept by the Elephants in the 4-game finals last season, brought back Liu Jung-hua, who took the team to two titles, as manager and opened its training camp in the central city of Taichung Jan. 4 before heading south to Pingtung for its second half of the pre-season preparation. (By Chris Wang) enditem/sc

DPP finalizes presidential primary process

Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed a resolution Wednesday to finalize its primary process, which will see the implementation of a national poll for nominations for the 2012 presidential election.

The decision was not reached without disagreement, as senior party members, headed by former Vice President Annette Lu, tried to persuade the party's Central Executive Committee in a meeting to include an intraparty vote to determine the presidential candidate.

The meeting passed a proposal submitted by a party task force convened by DPP Secretary-general Su Jia-chyuan, under which the party's candidate will be nominated through a national poll.

Su said that such a mechanism would help preserve party unity -- a critical factor in the DPP's chances of victory in the 2012 presidential race.

DPP Legislator Chen Min-wen, a member of the task force, told reporters after the meeting that the decision was reached by consensus and that Lu accepted the final result. The proposal, he said, will be sent to a vote in the Jan. 22 party plenary session and if passed, will then be adopted.

Lu, who is widely believed to be interested in running for the presidency, told reporters that all options have been thoroughly discussed in the meeting and that the goal of winning the 2012 presidential election was unanimous, despite previous differences of opinion on the primary process to be used.

At a press conference at the Legislative Yuan before the meeting, Lu expressed her support for using both options to give a voice to party members and ordinary citizens, saying that the primary process should consist of a series of nationwide debates held across the country, an intraparty vote, and a national poll.

"The process would be able to include the opinions of DPP members and citizens and let the voters thoroughly examine the visions of all the candidates. On top of that, the series of debates would mean that candidates would have to be fully prepared early," Lu said.

Many DPP members have suggested that a hotly contested party primary in the 2008 presidential campaign caused irreparable harm among the candidates and ultimately hurt the DPP's campaign.

The negative effect of "proxy" members, which has plagued the party in the past, also swayed the task force to reject the idea of an intraparty vote.

The DPP, which usually nominates its presidential candidate in May the year before the election, decided to nominate its candidate in March this year to give whomever is chosen more time to campaign.

In addition to Lu, incumbent DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP's 2008 presidential ticket of Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang are all said to be interested in running in 2012. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MOFA urges Taiwan ships to buy piracy insurance

Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) Taiwanese fishing boats planning to enter the Western Indian Ocean, where Somali pirates have hijacked numerous fishing vessels, are encouraged to buy insurance against piracy attacks, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.

In 2010, Somali pirates hijacked six Taiwanese fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Three of the boats were released upon payment of ransoms, two remain in Somalia and one has been listed as missing, Bruno C.H. Shen, deputy director-general of the MOFA's Department of African Affairs, said at a press briefing.

The government has been trying to assist is many ways, including notifying international maritime organizations of the hijackings and gathering information through Taiwan's foreign representative offices, but it cannot possibly cover ransoms, Shen said.

"The MOFA and the Fishery Agency under the Council of Agriculture are encouraging all fishing boats that are sailing into the Western Indian Ocean, where piracy is prevalent, to buy piracy insurance," he said.

Somali pirates have reportedly demanded ransoms ranging from US$1 million to US$9.5 million from ship owners. The record sum of US$9.5 million was paid by a Korean company Samho Shipping last November to free one of its oil tankers that was carrying roughly $170 million worth of Iraqi crude oil, according to a report in the Korean newspaper Joongang Daily on Nov. 8, 2010.

Piracy insurance, which is also known as terrorism insurance, covers negotiation assistance, direct financial help, and counseling for ship owners, Shen said.

He said that while there are not many insurance companies that offer this kind of policy, there is at least one foreign company that has expressed interest in providing such coverage in Taiwan.

Two Taiwan boats, Zechuntsai No. 68 and the Kaohsiung-based Taiyuan No. 227 that were hijacked last year in March and May, respectively, are still being held by pirates in Somalia, Shen said.

The owner of the Kaohsiung-based longliner Hsiuh Fu No. 1 has not been able to contact the boat since Dec. 25 last year and the vessel has been listed as missing, Shen said.

According to maritime watchdog Ecoterra International, at least 45 foreign vessels and 787 hostages were in the hands of Somali pirates as of Jan. 10.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Somali pirates raked in at least US$60 million in ransoms in 2009. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan monitoring situations in Sudan, Ivory Coast

Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) Taiwan is closely watching political developments in the African countries of Sudan and Ivory Coast but is not ready to make further assessments of the situations, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.

Sudan, where 4 million residents in the south started a week-long referendum Sunday to determine whether to declare independence, and Ivory Coast, where the president-elect has yet to be determined since an early December election, were not stable, said Bruno C.H. Shen, deputy director-general of the MOFA's Department of African Affairs.

It is widely expected that the majority of southern Sudanese, who are mostly Christian or animist in contrast to the Muslim-dominated north, will vote to secede from Sudan, he said, but whether the south could officially declare independence by July 9 as planned was doubtful.

Asked by reporters whether Taiwan planned to recognize the new country, if it is established, Shen said the MOFA has been monitoring the situation and would definitely weigh its options.

"There are a lot of issues (for Sudan) to be solved, among them the redrawing of territorial borders and the distribution of oil fields between the south and the north, " he said.

The attitude of the north, where the country's government is based, will also be a determining factor in the outcome of the referendum.

"With so many variables and the current instability in the country, the issue of recognition is not on our mind at this moment," he said.

In the western part of the continent, Ivory Coast finds itself in a political stalemate, after both incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara both declared themselves the winner in the country's December presidential election.

The United Nations reported that some 200 people have been killed or have disappeared in the past month in the ensuing political conflict.

"Taiwan does not want to see the situation being solved through armed conflict, " Shen said.

The ministry has advised seven Taiwanese businesses in Ivory Coast to take precautions and temporarily leave the country if necessary, Shen said.

"However, they didn't want to leave, saying that their companies were located in the suburbs of Abidjan, where the situation remained stable, " he said, referring to the country's biggest city and former capital. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Monday, January 10, 2011

Japanese politician calls for closer bilateral relations

Taipei, Jan. 10 (CNA) A high-ranking politician of Japan's main opposition party called Monday in Taipei for closer Japan-Taiwan relations and bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Economic Forum organized by the Commonwealth Magazine with the theme of "The Rise of New Asia: Asia's Conflicts, Growth and the New Future, " Yuriko Koike, chairwoman of the General Council under the Liberal Democratic Party, also said that a strong Japan-U.S. relationship will serve Taiwan's interests.

The 58-year-old member of Japan's House of Representatives said friction between Japan and the U.S. "has emboldened China, which has long aspired to a maritime hegemony, which has created concern for Taiwan."

"Do not forget that we always consider the security of Taiwan.... It's also vital for Japan and Taiwan to share the same democratic foundation, which will also have a positive effect on China, " said Koike, who has previously served as defense minister and environment minister.

The fact that electorates in Japan and Taiwan both threw out previous administrations in the last major elections in 2009 and 2008, respectively, shows that people in both countries share the same democratic values, according to Koike.

While both sides enjoy solid relations, it would be mutually beneficial if Japan and Taiwan could cooperate to develop alternatives to rare earth -- the lifeblood of the information technology industry -- and collaborate on areas such as environmental protection, energy saving, curbing air pollution, improving water quality and protecting intellectual property rights, she said.

The instability of Japan-U.S. relations is a part of "mismanagement that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has made in diplomacy and national security in the 16 months" since it took power, according to Koike, who also described the party as amateurs with an aimless foreign policy.

Koike accused the DPJ of pursuing a foreign policy of "chasing two rabbits" -- by which she meant catering to the U.S. and China at the same time -- and of ending up "fetching neither."

Assessing the situation in East Asia, she said that while the Chinese regime might be efficient in a period of strong economic growth, whether the growth will be sustainable is doubtful.

In terms of Japan, she said, the country will be able to make great contributions to Asia thanks to its experience dealing with an aging population and low birthrate, issues that are facing many Asian countries, including Taiwan. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

President lays down Taiwan's role in new Asia

Taipei, Jan. 10 (CNA) Taiwan aims to be a driving force behind the economic integration in the region and a hub of higher education in a rising new Asia, amid a change in the order of the global economy, President Ma Ying-jeou said Monday.

As one of the Asian countries which has experienced a rapid recovery from the global financial crisis, Taiwan has also achieved a "recovery with Taiwanese characteristics, " Ma said in a speech at the Commonwealth Economic Forum titled "The Rise of New Asia: Asia's Conflicts, Growth, and the New Future."

The forum was organized by the Commonwealth magazine in Taiwan. Ma said the historic trade pact Taiwan signed with China last June to liberalize cross-Taiwan Strait trade ties and to relax tensions, has provided Taiwan enough confidence to march forward and play an active role in a rapidly changing Asia.

The deal with China, known as the Economical Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) , will be Taiwan's first step toward an eventual role of becoming the driving force behind the regional economical integration in Asia, Ma said.

Taiwan's improved trade and investment environment and geographical advantage will also make Taiwan "the global headquarters for Taiwanese businessmen and the regional headquarters for foreign businessmen, " Ma said.

In addition, Taiwan would like to be a global innovation center, he said.

As Taiwan is also equipped with many advantages and expertise, Ma said Taiwan can become "a hub of higher education in Asia, " adding that Taiwan's universities would especially like to cater to the needs of students from Southeast Asian countries since they are able to provide courses taught in English and quality Mandarin-learning education.

The president's comments came after Ma unveiled his vision for Taiwan's role in the world in his New Year's Day message on Jan. 1, saying that Taiwan aimed to be a standard-bearer at the leading edge of Chinese culture, a paragon of democracy for the Chinese-speaking world, a global innovation center, and a nation the world respects, and an inspiration to many. (By Chris Wang) Enditem/cs

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Taiwan's 'golden pair' crash out of badminton finals

Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) Taiwan's world women's doubles No. 1 Chien Yu-chin and Cheng Wen-hsing saw their dream of winning the first title in the Badminton World Federation Super Series Finals end in a semifinal defeat Saturday.

The duo could not break the jinx against world No. 3 Cheng Shu and Zhao Yunlei, and suffered their fourth consecutive defeat by the Chinese pair, 22-20, 21-19.

China's Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang will meet Cheng/Zhao in the title game after a 21-16, 21-16 win over the Japanese pair Miyuki Maeda and Satoko Suetsuna.

The top seeds in the other categories advanced without any trouble. World men's singles No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia beat Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana in the semifinal to set up a title game showdown with Danish veteran Peter Gade, who won 21-19, 21-18 against China's Chen Long Saturday.

Lee will try to take his third straight title of the tournament, the climax of the 12-leg BWF Super Series circuit, which carries a total purse of US$500,000.

World No. 2 Wang Shixian of China, who defeated Hong Kong's Yip Pui-yin 21-15, 21-14 in the semifinal, will match up against South Korean Bae Youn-joo, who upset world No. 3 Wang Yihan of China 21-18, 16-21, 21-16 in the semifinal.

In the men's doubles final, it will be world No. 1 Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Boe of Denmark against South Korea's Jung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae.

China's Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei will meet Thailand's Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam in the mixed doubles final. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Agassi wins both exhibition games in Taiwan

Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) Tennis great Andre Agassi of the United States and Marat Safin of Russia concluded a highly-publicized exhibition series in Taiwan Saturday with Agassi beating his relatively youthful opponent again in their second and final match in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.

Agassi, 40, beat 30-year-old Safin 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 again in a super tiebreaker after his first win 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 13-11 in Taipei Thursday, capping off the American's five-day stay in Taiwan, a country which he last visited 22 years ago.

The exhibition events, titled the "Rise of Legends, " feature Agassi, Safin, Youzhny and local players Lu Yen-hsun and Jimmy Wang. The first matches were played in Taipei Thursday.

The eight-time Grand Slam winner told screaming crowds at Kaohsiung Arena in his post-match remarks that he will consider visiting Taiwan again and bring his world-famous wife Steffi Graf, who won 22 women's Grand Slam singles titles, next time.

Not to be outdone by Agassi both on and off the court, two-time Grand Slam titlist Safin, who retired in 2009 at an early age of 29, jokingly said he would talk to popular Russian female tennis players, including Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova and his sister Dinara Safina into visiting Taiwan with him the next time.

During the match, Agassi racked up seven straight points in the third set, which adopts the super tiebreaker, to turn a 4-1 deficit into a commanding 8-4 lead before earning his first match point at 9-6 with his eighth ace in the match.

Before the Agassi-Safin showdown -- the highlight of the night, world No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia defeated Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun 7-6 (7-3) in a one-set exhibition match.

Youzhny revenged a 7-6 (7-5) loss Thursday to world No. 35 Lu, who fought off a match point to force a tie at 5-5 and survived another scare in the 12th game to take the match into a tiebreaker.

In the third match, also a one-setter, Agassi paired with Wang against the duo of Safin and Lu to round up the evening.

The Grand Slam winners held a clinic in the morning for local children before the evening match. They arrived in Kaohsiung Friday and participated in a charity auction event.

Around 7,000 and 9,500 tickets, ranging between NT$800 (US$27.4) and NT$10,000 (US$342) each, were sold in Kaohsiung and Taipei respectively, according to the game organizer Integration Sports, which also said that the exhibitions were not profitable. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

EU-Taiwan trade arrangements on right track: envoy

Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) Negotiations on trade arrangements between the European Union (EU) and Taiwan are on the right track despite imbalance in bilateral trade and investment, according to a top EU diplomat in Taipei.

While they are still exploring the feasibility for a deal similar to a free trade agreement, both sides have already started to collaborate in various areas that could have a huge impact, said Guy Ledoux, chief of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei, the bloc's representative office in Taiwan in the absence of official bilateral ties.

Taiwan has turned to other major trade partners, including the EU, for possible FTA's after signing a historical pact called the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China last June to liberalize two-way trade.

In an interview the Central News Agency on Friday, Ledoux said that the EU received positive and constructive feedback from Taiwan in the annual consultation held in Brussels last November, which showed that the process is "on the right track."

"Brussels hasn't forgotten Taiwan…If there is will on the Taiwanese side to make progress, the EU will also find the resources to engage in dialogues, " Ledoux, said, noting that the EU has never interrupted the annual consultations with any excuse.

Ledoux will soon be re-assigned to the Philippines after heading the EU office in Taiwan for four years.

The EU and Taiwan have started collaboration in three different areas -- investment, public procurement and standards, he said, and if someday there would be negotiation on the Trade Enhance Measures (TEM), the temporary name of an EU-Taiwan FTA, those three elements will be part of such an arrangement.

However, there have been two major imbalances between the two sides -- export and investment -- which "need to be corrected, " he said.

According to the diplomat, Taiwan has a significant amount -- roughly 30 billion Euros -- of export to the EU and, while the EU is Taiwan's largest foreign investor, Taiwanese companies have invested very little in EU countries.

There has not been any progress in terms of Taiwan's investment in Europe during his four years in Taiwan despite the energy his office has devoted to investment promotion, he said.

"Maybe we haven't touched the right button, " he lamented, adding that investing in China has been also the "easy choice" for Taiwanese companies.

The French-born diplomat said Taiwanese businessmen tended to forget the size of the European economy, which is around 14 trillion euros, compared to China's 5 trillion.

While a two-percent growth for Europe is not as impressive as a 10-percent growth in the Chinese economy, the EU is adding 300 billion euros -- about the size of the Taiwanese economy -- to the size of its own economy each year, he noted.

He hoped that the recent Schengen visa exemption to Taiwanese passport holders will make it easier for Taiwan business people to fly to Europe to meet partners and explore business opportunities.

Ledoux also said he didn't think a European Commission decision last December to slap a total of 433.92 million euro fines on a group of Taiwanese manufacturers would impact bilateral trade relations.

AU Optronics, Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp., Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. and HannStar Display Corp. were fined for for allegedly fixing prices in violation of the EU's competition rules after Samsung, their South Korean competitor, blew the whistle.

On the anger of some Taiwan business leaders over Samsung's behavior, Ledoux said the EU underlined the importance of a level playing field.

Even though many people said the mechanism was unfair, it is "the make sure that somebody's going to blow the whistle to tell you that something is going on."

Regarding media reports of a possible lifting of the EU's 21-year arms embargo on China, Ledoux said that there was no new element that would have influence on why the EU should suddenly change its position, but he declined to elaborate. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Friday, January 07, 2011

Lee, Taiwan's 'golden pair,' charge into badminton semis

Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) Taiwan's Chien Yu-chin and Cheng Wen-hsing advanced to the semifinals of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Super Series Finals in Taipei Friday after sweeping their qualifying group.

Chien and Cheng, ranked No. 1 in the world in women's doubles and known in Taiwan as the "golden" doubles pair, beat Anastasia Russkikh of Russia and Petya Nedelcheva of Bulgaria 23-25, 21-13, 21-12 to win their third match in their preliminary group.

In Saturday's semifinal, the pair will face the second-seeded Zhao Yunlei and Chang Shu of China, who finished second in their preliminary group with one loss against the Chinese team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang.

Chien and Cheng are looking to win their first title in the annual season-ending tournament, the climax of the 12-leg BWF Super Series circuit, which is now in its third year.

World men's singles No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, who is seeking his third straight title in the tourney is scheduled to meet China's Chen Long in the semifinal after a 21-14, 21-12 victory Friday over Danish veteran Peter Gade.

Gade will meet Thailand's Boonsak Posana in the tournament's other semifinal.

In women's singles, top seed Wang Shixian of China beat South Korean Bae Youn-joo 21-18, 21-10 to set up a semifinal clash with Yip Pui-yin of Hong Kong. Bae will play Wang Yihan in the other semifinal match.

In men's doubles, Chai Biao and Zhang Nan of China will meet Lee Yong-dae and Jung Jae-sung of South Korea in one of the semifinals. Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, also from China, take on Mathias Boe and Carsten Morgensen of Denmark in the other match.

Taiwan's male duo of Fang Chieh-min and Lee Sheng-mu failed to make it out of the preliminary round.

In the mixed doubles semifinals, China's Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei will play the South Korean pair of Ko Sung-hyun and Ha Jung-eun. The other pairing will be an all-Thailand affair, with Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam facing Songphon Anugritayawon and Kunchala Voravichitchaikul.

Total prize money in this year's event, being held for the third time, is US$500,000. Eight players or pairs in each of the five divisions were split into two groups of four in the round robin preliminary round, with the top two finishers in each group advancing to the semifinals. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

EU's Taiwan head to be posted in the Philippines

Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) Guy Ledoux, the European Union's (EU's) representative to Taiwan, will be finishing his four-year term before the end of the month and then head on to the Philippines, Ledoux confirmed in an interview with the Central News Agency Friday.

Before moving to his new posting, the diplomat on Friday celebrated the EU's decision to grant Taiwan visa waiver status with President Ma Ying-jeou in a ceremony hosted by the Presidential Office.

The visa exemption for Republic of China (Taiwan) passport holders to the Schengen area countries and others on its periphery is scheduled to take effect Jan. 11.

Ledoux, who assumed his post in Taiwan in March 2007, said the visa waiver was among the major achievements in the development of EU-Taiwan relations over the past four years and was probably the one thing that most people will remember.

But a number of other achievements were also worth mentioning, he said.

"The EU has been more proactive in terms of expressing its views on cross-Strait relations and Taiwan in recent years, " he said, adding that the bloc's goal is to have a common foreign policy to express its view on various issues in the international arena.

For example, the EU has issued statements on the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement -- a trade pact between Taiwan and China -- the visa-waiver policy, and Taiwan's elections, he said.

On the economic and trade front, the EU and Taiwan have nearly resolved a major trade dispute on compulsory licensing, he said, and he expected Taiwan's accession to the Government Procurement Agreement to be beneficiary to both sides.

Another major step forward was the opening in 2009 of an EU Center to promote awareness of the economic and political union of 27 European countries, Ledoux said.

The EU also extended a helping hand to victims of Typhoon Morakot, a devastating typhoon which killed hundreds of Taiwanese in 2009, including supplies provided by Sweden and Poland, he added.

The diplomat said he was appointed last September by Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as the EU's representative to Manila, but the posting was not confirmed until the Philippines granted an accreditation in late December.

The posting is a part of the annual rotation of some 130 EU delegations around the world, Ledoux said, with roughly 30 posts changing personnel every year. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Agassi rallies to beat Safin in exhibition tennis match

Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) Tennis great Andre Agassi rallied to beat Marat Safin of Russia 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 13-11 in the highlight of two exhibition matches that thrilled an unusually large tennis crowd for Taiwan Thursday evening.

Agassi, 40, told fans after the match that it was an honor for him to come back to Taiwan since visits he made in 1986 and 1988, and that he had a lot of fun playing Safin, who is 10 years younger but who retired last year at the early age of 29.

Comparing the night with his farewell showing in the 2006 United States Tennis Open, Agassi jokingly said: "Nobody asked me to marry her this time so I'm a little bit disappointed."

He also showed his humorous side with an impromptu act that ultimately became the highlight of the evening. Trailing 6-5 in the second set, Agassi handed his racket to two local ball boys and had them play in turns against Safin briefly, while the eight-time Grand Slam winner served as a ball boy.

Safin had a quick start in the match, taking the first set quickly, but encountered trouble in the second.

Earlier in the evening, local favorite Lu Yen-hsun beat world No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny 7-6 (7-5) in the first match of the event, a one- set exhibition in front of a cheering crowd of thousands.

The world No. 35 broke Youzhny in the third game and held serve for a 3-1 advantage, but Youzhny rallied on his well-known one-handed backhand to take a 5-4 lead. In the tiebreaker, Lu seized the momentum with an ace for a 3-0 lead and a win.

The exhibition events, titled the "Rise of Legends, " feature Agassi, Safin, Youzhny and local players Lu and Jimmy Wang. The second round of matches are scheduled to be played in the southern city of Kaohsiung Jan. 8.

The attendance at the Taipei event was 9,500 -- around 70 percent of the capacity of the Taipei Arena, according to the organizers, with the cheaper upper deck selling out. Tickets ranged between NT$800 (US$27.12) and NT$10,000. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J