Wed, Aug 02, 2006 - Page 1 News List

MAC bends to wishes of big business

OPEN GATES Currently, companies are allowed to bring in only 30 Chinese employees at a time to attend meetings, but the MAC said that was set to change to `hundreds'

AGENCIES , TAIPEI

The government agency in charge of relations with China said yesterday it would allow multinational corporations to bring in more employees from China for regional company meetings, addressing a key business demand on the issue.

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said the current limit of 30 Chinese visitors per meeting would be expanded, indicating that applications for "hundreds of visitors" could be approved.

"The [present] maximum limit doesn't fit the demands of the time," he said.

Visits to Taiwan by travelers from China are strictly limited because of the nominally hostile relations between the two countries.

The government of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has taken a particularly hard line on the issue, fearing that expanded commercial links with China could reduce the country's options in the event of a political confrontation.

On a related issue, Wu reaffirmed earlier indications that, by the end of the year, tourists from China will be allowed to visit Taiwan without passing through a third location.

Negotiations on the issue are underway between Taiwanese and Chinese officials, Wu said.

Wu said that the MAC's negotiations with the Chinese government had gone well and more details would be announced shortly.

"Currently, approximately 300 Chinese employees of Microsoft Corp have applied to come to Taiwan for a meeting, and we are working on it ... I am quite sure that more Chinese visitors will be approved and allowed to visit Taiwan before the end of this year," Wu said.

He added that for now, Chinese visitors would still be required to transit through a third location, such as Hong Kong or Macau, before entering Taiwan.

However, Wu said that the government was considering allowing Chinese visitors to take direct charter flights across the Taiwan Strait.

"If the current climate for talks between Taiwan and China persists, we can allow 1,000 Chinese tourists a day to visit, beginning four or five months from now," Wu said.

Also, Taiwan plans to relax restrictions on currency exchanges with China when it allows more Chinese tourists to visit, which could happen as early as October, Wu said yesterday.

Chinese tourists should be able to convert their yuan currency directly into New Taiwan dollars on a trial basis, Wu said, after conversions were allowed on two outlying islands last October.

The pilot scheme would allow Chinese travelers to avoid the hassle and expense of changing yuan into NT dollars via a third currency, a move that would bring financial ties slightly closer.

"This is a standard amenity for tourism," Wu said after a news conference. "We're asking the central bank about carrying out the necessary legwork. Before that work is done, we cannot discuss too many details."

Taiwan's central bank said it was ready to roll out the currency plans.

"We're all prepared," said a central bank official who declined to be identified.

Wu's comments came in the wake of last week's government-sponsored economic forum, which featured discussions on Taiwanese commercial relations with China.

That meeting produced few indications of coming commercial liberalization with Beijing, despite pressure from Taiwan's powerful business community to soften China policies.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG

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