Fri, Jun 03, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Chinese handset ban may end

OPENING THE MARKET The government may allow Chinese cellphones to enter the local market after Beijing relaxed its regulations against Taiwanese companies


The government is considering lifting the long-term ban on handset imports from China after Beijing allowed two more Taiwanese companies to sell branded mobile phones there last week, a government official said yesterday.

China's restrictions on foreign handset vendors including Taiwanese firms, has been one of the major reasons behind the ban on handset imports from China.

BenQ Corp (明基電通) and Inventec Appliances Corp (英華達) were granted licenses to sell handsets in China amid Beijing's latest effort to liberalize its telecommunications market.

"Now that the obstacle has been removed, we are likely to move toward opening [the local market]," said an official from the Board of Foreign Trade, a watchdog on goods imported from China, on condition that they not be named.

"But, the final decision will be made in a meeting scheduled for later this month after collecting opinions from other government agencies and industrial representatives," the official said.

If government officials decide to lift the ban, Taiwanese consumers may have access to Chinese handsets by the middle of next year at the earliest, according to the anonymous official.

The board's move was also in response to a call by local mobile phone retailer St. Williams Group (御立集團) to remove the ban.

Getting around the restrictions late las year, St. Williams started selling handsets made by China's Ningbo Bird Co (波導) and Amoi Electronics Co (夏新), as the handsets were made in factories outside of China.

St. Williams plans to introduce more models to Taiwan, including handsets that are third-generation (3G) technology capable, vice chairman Clark Hsu (許崇鎮) told the Taipei Times.

The handset retailer already sent two mobile phones to local telecom operators for testing, paving the way for the launch of 3G services later this year, Hsu said.

But not everyone has warmed to the idea of lifting the ban. The Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (電電公會), a Taipei-based association with some 4,100 members, expressed concerns yesterday.

"We are cautious about the opening up. We fear Chinese companies will trigger a price war to hurt Taiwan's handset market in order to reduce excessive production at home," said Luo Huai-jia (羅懷家), an executive director of the association.

But Peggy Chang (張意珮), an analyst with Topology Research Institute (拓墣產業研究所), said it would only have minimal impact on the local handset market.

"India and Russia, not Taiwan, are the target markets for Chinese handset vendors to export their cellphones," Chang said, adding that Chinese handset makers have lagged behind local companies in terms of manufacturing capabilities.

What's more, Chinese mobile phones did not attract much attention from local consumers when they were introduced to the market last year, she said.

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