Sat, May 03, 2003 - Page 3 News List

MAC considering freight services across the Strait

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

For the sake of convenience in light of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China, the Mainland Affairs Council yesterday said that it is assessing the feasibility of a cargo transportation service across the Taiwan Strait.

Council Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tung (陳明通) said the council is undertaking the assessment on orders from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

According to Chen Ming-tung, the president gave the order while presiding over a high-level national security meeting on Thursday to discuss various strategies for coping with the impact of SARS on the nation.

Among instructions given by the president at the meeting concerning the nation's trade and economy, he asked the relevant government agencies to carefully re-evaluate the timetable for improving cross-strait transportation due to the danger of importing SARS from China and Hong Kong.

"Cross-strait exchanges have been largely restricted due to the SARS situation," said Chen Ming-tung, referring to the temporary suspension of the "small three links" since last month.

"It is worth considering, however, strengthening cross-strait exchanges of goods and merchandise," he said.

"The council therefore, on the command of President Chen, will assess and evaluate all possible ways to conduct a cross-strait cargo transportation service," said Chen Ming-tung at the council's weekly news conference yesterday.

While no concrete guidelines were given as to when the assessment would be made public or how the cargo transportation would be implemented, he said the council would work to complete the assessment as soon as possible.

He did not elaborate.

An anonymous source was cited in a Central News Agency report saying that the council was assessing the plan in order to meet the needs of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople who have not been able to manufacture and export their goods due to the SARS outbreak

The report said the service is being assessed in order to safeguard the nation's competitive edge in the Asian region.

KMT spokesman Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said the party welcomed the idea of cross-strait cargo transportation

"While cross-strait exchanges have been restricted in an effort to curb the spread of SARS, the government should work to keep SARS' impact on our economy at a minimum," Tsai said.

"We therefore think it is a good idea to consider pushing for cross-strait transportation at this time," said Tsai.

The KMT has long lobbied for direct links.

TSU's Department of Social Activity chief Hsiao Kwan-yu (蕭貫譽) disagreed.

Noting the cross-strait cargo transportation service could become a loophole in the nation's fight against SARS, Hsiao said that the "TSU is totally against the promotion of chartered cross-strait cargo transportation."

"The priority of the nation now should be combating and containing the SARS virus and not pushing for cargo transportation to and from China, which has been the hardest-hit country in the world by SARS," Hsiao said.

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