Taiwan Pushes Direct Links, Closer Business Ties With China
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian said Saturday the government would like to open a direct transportation link with China, and urged Beijing to engage in talks with Taipei for a normalization of commercial and political relations.
"I think the time has arrived for a direct transportation link ... we are willing to open the link by the year's end," Chen said in a press conference.
"Who said direct links are impossible if both sides can sit down to begin dialogue and negotiations," he said.
Chen said a direct transportation link would be part of a normalization of business ties between the two sides which could also facilitate a normalization in Taiwan-China relations.
"Normalization of cross-strait ties has to start with normalization of bilateral commercial ties," he said, adding the government would consider relaxing economic restrictions towards China if national security is assured.
The decades-old ban on the three direct links -- transportation, commerce and post -- has been in place since 1949 after Taiwan and China split at the end of a bitter civil war.
Chen's remarks came after Taiwan's mainland policy architect; the mainland Affairs Council (MAC) on Wednesday completed a plan of a possible trial of direct links between its offshore islands and the mainland before the year's end.
Under the plan, the offshore islands of Kinmen and Matsu would be allowed to make direct trade and transport exchanges with the Chinese province of Fujian, in a trial scheme known as the "three mini links."
"As you know the report suggests the 'three mini links' are feasible and can be implemented in phases," MAC chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said.
"It is our desire that the restrictions on trade would be reduced to the lowest level," Tsai said, as both Taipei and Beijing were set to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Taiwan was expected to enter the WTO immediately after China's accession to the world trade body, possible later this year.
The economic ministry on Friday said it would review restrictions on Taiwan trade and investment in China.
It would ease the ban on any single mainland-bound investment exceeding 50 million US dollars, the ministry said.
Former President Lee Teng-hui imposed the ban and refused to allow any Taiwanese investment in mainland hi-tech and infrastructure sectors following Chinese saber rattling during the 1996 Taiwan elections.
The ban was better known in Taiwan as the "no haste, be patient" policy.
However, with or without government approval, local entrepreneurs have invested more than 40 billion US dollars in China since the commencement of civil contacts in the late 1980s, cashing in on the mainland's raw materials and cheap labor -- TAIPEI(AFP)
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