President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday touted the country’s close ties trade and tourism with Japan and said he expected the new Association of East Asian Relations (AEAR) chairman to help promote stronger bilateral relations.
At a meeting with an economic group from Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, Ma cited the number of Japanese tourists who visited Taiwan last year, which reached 1.29 million, and said the growing number of tourists showed the continued development of Taiwan-Japan relations.
The appointment of former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) secretary-general Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) as head of the AEAR should help boost relations between the two nations, Ma said.
“Taiwan and Japan do not have formal diplomatic ties, but the two countries share a special partnership because of close non-official ties in trade, tourism and transportation,” Ma said at the Presidential Office.
The AEAR is a major platform that handles bilateral relations between Taipei and Tokyo after diplomatic ties between the two countries was severed in 1972.
Liao, who has also served as Presidential Office secretary-general and interior minister, has a unique familiarity with Japanese affairs because his mother is Japanese, Ma said.
Ma said as Taiwan’s second-largest trading partner, Japan invested more than US$400 million in Taiwan last year, while Taiwan’s investment in Japan reached US$250 million during the same period, helping bring the total investment between the two countries to NT$70 billion (US$2.4 billion).
Last year, Taipei and Tokyo signed an investment pact after more than 12 months of negotiations. Ma described the pact as the most important economic agreement between the two countries in 60 years.
“We also signed an open-skies agreement with Japan last year, which promotes air transportation between the two countries,” Ma said. “We expect the bilateral relations to continue to grow.”