Passenger figures fall
Inbound and outbound passenger numbers for last year were down significantly, largely due to the impact of the SARS outbreak earlier in the year, according to tallies released recently by the Tourism Bureau under the Transportation and Communications Ministry. The number of arrivals in Taiwan for last year dropped 24.5 percent over the previous year to 2.24 million, according to the bureau's statistics. The number of arrivals dipped to 40,000 in May, during the peak of the outbreak, far below the average of 250,000 arrivals per month prior to the appearance of SARS. The sharpest drops were seen in the number of arrivals from Japan, Hong Kong and Macao, and the US, in that order. Meanwhile, the number of outbound passengers for last year dropped by 19.8 percent over the previous year to 5.92 million, with Hong Kong, Japan, the US, Europe and Oceania bearing the brunt of the drop.
US, China in furniture spat
A federal trade panel in the US voted Friday to investigate allegations that Chinese companies are dumping millions of dollars worth of wooden bedroom furniture into the US market at artificially low prices. With little discussion, the US International Trade Commission gave a victory to the 30 American furniture manufacturers that filed a petition seeking the investigation. Manufacturers say China's practices are costing US jobs, but US retailers say high tariffs on Chinese furniture will cost retail jobs. "We have cleared a major hurdle with today's vote," said John Bassett, president and CEO of Virginia-based Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. A group of furniture retailers that includes JC Penney and Crate & Barrel vowed to fight efforts to impose taxes on Chinese imports. Furniture manufacturers are seeking duties of around 250 percent.
Airlines offer limited menus
A former New Zealand Jewish community leader has complained that Dubai-based Emirates Airlines will not serve kosher food on its flights, a newspaper reported yesterday. Bruce Hill, who now lives in Melbourne, Australia, said he had asked for a kosher meal when he booked a flight to New Zealand at Christmas, no objection was raised and it was noted in his travel details, Wellington's Dominion Post reported. But on the plane he was told that kosher food was not served, even though the airline served special foods for people of many religions, even the small Indian Jain sect. Hill said that when he complained to Emirates' New Zealand office, he was told that Emirates was an Arab airline and did not expect Jews to use it. The paper said that a spokeswoman for Israel's El Al airline said it did not serve Moslem halal food on its flights.
US urges Argentina to pay
US President George W. Bush will urge Argentina at next week's Summit of the Americas to "take the difficult decisions that it needs to take" to tackle its debt problem, his national security adviser said Friday. Bush will deliver that message when he meets with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner Jan. 13 on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, Condoleezza Rice told reporters in a pre-trip briefing. "There have to be some difficult decisions and some difficult steps taken by Argentina," she said. "We are in constant discussion with Argentina about the need to be very careful to meet the terms that it had signed on" with the IMF, said Rice.