Wed, Jul 30, 2003 - Page 11 News List

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STAFF WRITER WITH AGENCIES

Free-trade pact on the cards

Taiwan might sign a free-trade agreement with Panama at the end of next month as long as both sides resolve their differences at the last round of trade talks early next month, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) yesterday.

"If the last round of talks complete with success, we'll be able to sign the pact. But we have to remain cautious and careful as any tiny problem that arise in the way might obstruct the signing of the agreement," Chien said.

As Panama President Mireya Moscoso is scheduled to visit Taipei for a head-of-state summit between Taiwan and its central American allies, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Moscoso might sign the pact before the summit, Chien said.

The fifth round of trade talks are slated to take place from Friday to Aug. 10, said Javier Ho (侯清山), director of the ministry's department of central and south American affairs.

Issues of market access, tariffs and the list of agricultural items require further consultations during the upcoming talks, Ho said.

Lee Yung-san gains top seat

With the government's support, former finance minister Lee Yung-san (李庸三) yesterday secured his chairmanship at the board reshuffle of the Gre Tai Securities Market (櫃台買賣中心), the nation's over-the-counter (OTC) market.

Following the prosecutor's eight-month investigation into an alleged corruption case, Lee was indicted along with 28 bank staffers late last month for involvement in illegally granting loans to Hotel Royal Chihpen (知本飯店) in Taitung between 1996 and 1998, when he served as chairman of the Farmers' Bank of China (農民銀行). Based on the Statute for Punishment of Corruption (貪污治罪條例), the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office recommended a seven-year jail term for Lee, who, however, insisted in his innocence but faced heavy pressures to step down.

Total revenues drop

The total revenues received by all Taiwan companies in the wholesale, retail, and restaurant sectors in May totaled NT$685.2 billion (US$19.9 billion), a decline of 2.9 percent from the same month of last year, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday.

The ministry attributed the decline to the outbreak of SARS in Taiwan during that time.

Figures showed that the revenues received by the wholesale sector totaled NT$453.8 billion, a drop of 2.71 percent from a year earlier.

Revenues received by department stores and hypermarkets during the month totaled NT$10.1 billion, a drop of 24.27 percent. Restaurants were also hard hit by the SARS outbreak. Total revenues received by restaurant owners amounted to NT$18.1 billion, down 17.36 percent from May last year.

AU may raise profit goal

AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), the world's fourth-largest maker of flat-panel displays, may more than double its profit forecast for this year because prices are better than it expected, a Chinese-language newspaper said.

AU Optronics next month will raise its net income target for this year to more than NT$7 billion (US$203.5 million) from NT$2.6 billion the company estimated on April 24, the report said, without mentioning where it got the information.

Demand is strong and prices will be stable this year, the report said, citing company vice president Hsiung Hui (熊暉).

NT dollar gains strength

The New Taiwan dollar yesterday maintained strength against its US counterpart, up NT$0.080 to close at NT$34.380 on the Taipei foreign exchange market.

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