Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Direct links can't wait, AmCham says

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) yesterday encouraged the government to improve economic ties with China.

The chamber said in its 2004 Taiwan White Paper that the country's status as a regional economic hub would be in jeopardy without direct transportation links across the Strait.

"Multinational companies here are facing increasing difficulties in carrying out a regional business plan from Taiwan without direct transport connections with China," AmCham president Andrea Wu (吳王小珍) said.

The absence of direct links has become a symbol of Taiwan's isolation from Asia's fastest growing market, according to the White Paper, which has been issued annually since 1996.

"Taiwan's proximity to China must be embraced as an economic strength, not just guarded against as a political risk," she said.

Wu said direct links are urgent if the nation wants to avoid being marginalized.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) last August presented a plan to realize direct transport links by the end of this year.

Before direct links are realized, AmCham said, Taiwan-based US companies hope the government can loosen restrictions on exchanges of people.

Many multinationals have been suffering from the nation's strict policy on issuing visas and work permits to their Chinese staffers based in other countries, AmCham executive director Richard Vuylsteke said.

The Mainland Affairs Council said yesterday that most of the initial preparations for direct links have been completed but there were still many details to be worked out with the Chinese authorities.

Besides cross-strait issues, the AmCham report said, political unrest has damaged confidence in Taiwan's investment environment.

"Political discourse should focus on policy rather than personalities, petty disputes and peripheral issues," Wu said.

Wu is scheduled to lead an AmCham delegation to Washington from June 13 to June 16 to brief officials on the White Paper's contents. The delegation will also call on high-level officials in Taiwan.

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