Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 2 News List

SARS dents cross-strait investment

BUSINESS CONCERNS The vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council says the risks posed by the virus will deter Taiwanese from investing in China

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China has prompted Taiwanese businesspeople to re-evaluate the risks of investing across the Taiwan Strait, a Mainland Affairs Council official said yesterday.

"Although it is expected that travelers in general will forget about SARS problems before long, Taiwanese investors and busi-nesspeople will likely raise the level of their investment-risk awareness in China even after the SARS outbreak subsides," said council Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通).

Chen made the comments at a forum at the legislature hosted by DPP Legislator Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) to discuss the impact of SARS on cross-strait business.

While noting that there are all kinds of risks and opportunities when it comes to investing in China, Chen said that, in the past, local investors and businesspeople rarely considered communicable disease in their risk assessment.

"In the past, investors mainly evaluated their investment risk in terms of a country's social and military stability and did not place much emphasis on the danger of disease transmission," Chen said.

"With the outbreak of SARS in China, Taiwanese investors are in a position to consider diversifying their investments," Chen added.

In related news, Chen said at the council's weekly news conference yesterday that it is still assessing the feasibility of cargo transportation service across the Strait, an order handed down by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) last week.

"The cross-strait cargo transportation issue is not something that can be solved single-handedly because it touches on not just Taiwanese authority but also that of China's, as well as the interaction between the two sides of the Strait," he said.

"The government will advance the [cargo service] issue in line with the development of cross-strait relations," he added.

Without elaborating on when the assessment would be made public or how cargo transportation would be implemented, he said the council would work to complete the assessment as soon as possible.

He also called on China to show its sincerity when speaking of cooperating with Taiwan in curbing the spread of SARS.

Noting the epidemic is believed to have originated in China, Chen said the government has sought more details from Beijing on how the disease spread as well as more information on the virus itself.

Chen said that the government acknowledges the importance of information exchanges in the effort to fight SARS and has made a joint cross-strait effort part of its policy in combatting the disease.

"Despite several requests from us via the Straits Exchange Foundation to obtain this information, China has yet to provide us with this information," Chen said at the press conference.

"Beijing has been reluctant to pass on basic information about SARS, let alone talk about further cross-strait cooperation in this regard," he said when asked to comment on recent remarks by Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), director of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council, about cross-strait cooperation in fight against SARS.

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