President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged to strengthen ties with Russia, saying he expected Moscow to grant Taiwanese visa-free travel and start direct flight services among economic and cultural exchanges.
The improvement in cross-strait relations and Taiwan’s signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China last month prompted great opportunities for more exchanges between Taiwan and other Asian countries as cross-strait relations were no longer an issue, Ma said.
“Many Asian countries are excited about the ECFA as they see the opportunity to strengthen economic ties with Taiwan as well,” Ma said when meeting with Vasily Do Brovolskiy, Russia’s top representative to Taiwan, at the Presidential Office.
“We expect to push for more development in economic and cultural exchanges with Russia at this historic point, starting with reciprocal visa waivers and direct air links,” he said.
The president lauded Russia’s rich natural resources and its achievements with its economy. He said the nation’s trade with Russia decreased to US$2.7 billion from US$3.6 billion in 2008 because of global financial crisis and that there were only 20 Taiwanese businessmen in Russia.
“There is ample room for Taiwan and Russia to increase trade and investment,” Ma said.
On educational exchanges, there are about 120 Taiwanese students studying in Russia, while 250 Russian students are pursuing their education in Taiwan, Ma said.
The president said first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) visited Russia last month as honorary director of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and he expected more performing arts groups from the two sides to visit each other and increase cultural exchanges.
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