Fri, Jun 16, 2000 - Page 17 News List

`Three links' ban a risk to high-tech

TALKS Lack of capacity at CKS and lack of direct trade links with China all threaten Taiwan's competitiveness, according to leaders at a US-ROC business summit

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

The ban on direct air links with China and limited capacity of air freight services at Chiang Kai Shek International Airport could harm the competitiveness of Taiwan's high-tech industry, said members of a joint US-ROC business group yesterday.

At the annual meeting of the ROC-USA and US-ROC Business Councils, vice president of Federal Express Scott Hallford said Taiwan was in danger of squandering the trade benefits linked to its cultural and geographical proximity to China by maintaining restrictions on direct air links.

"The cost advantages of sourcing supply across the strait are obvious," said Hallford. "Clearly restrictions limit the viability of trade and investment, particularly in the high-tech industries that require rapid, overnight or second day delivery of components to the second link in the production chain."

He said that if Taiwan companies couldn't keep abreast of this express delivery trend then they might find "their roles progressively marginalized if US and Japanese multinationals are able increasingly to integrate vertically with mainland suppliers after China's WTO accession." This problem won't be mitigated by the relatively small capacity of air cargo facilities at CKS, said American Chamber of Commerce's executive director Richard Vuylsteke.

"We are very concerned about this issue," said Vuylsteke. "Not only for the viability of Taiwan but also the viability of the American companies that our organizations represent."

Chairman of the Taiwan-based ROC-USA Business Council C.Y. Wang (王鍾渝) also chipped into the debate saying," United Parcel Service has pointed out if we are not able to provide enough capacity in the air cargo service, it may create a bottleneck for our high-tech development in the future."

Concern surrounding the slow air freight service at CKS has been enflamed by repeated delays in completion of the second terminal which was originally scheduled to be operational by the end of July.

Construction and operation of the terminal was divided into two sections, which were then offered through public tendering to Eva Air (長榮航空) and China Airlines (中華航空). Tony Cho, head of Eva's corporate planning division, attempted to alleviate concerns yesterday by saying that that the terminal's computer systems and mainframe structure would be completed by July. Final completion is scheduled for 2002 or 2003 and once the cargo terminal is in operation, "it will be a great help to release the strain on air freight capacity at CKS," said Cho. But Hallford was less confident, saying that "Even when terminal two is completed, with the current growth rates of air express and air cargo, in three more years capacity will have again reached its limit and we will be facing the same situation."

David Laux, former president of the US-ROC Business Council, made a passionate plea to the Taiwan government to speed up construction of the project, alluding to better efficiency across the strait. The Chinese "could construct the Great Hall of the People in ten months," said Laux.

"Taiwan is much more of a can do society than over there ... may I respectfully suggest that you adopt this as a national priority," he said.

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