President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday applauded what he said were significant improvements in relations with Hong Kong, saying that Taiwan has much to learn from the territory.
Ma made the remarks after receiving a delegation from the Taiwan Business Association in Hong Kong at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.
“Taiwan and Hong Kong are now each other’s fourth-largest trading partners and the [close ties] have contributed most significantly to Taiwan’s tourism industry,” Ma said.
Ma said the number of visitors from Hong Kong and Macau to Taiwan was 400,000 in 2007, a year before he took office, but that figure surged to nearly 1.01 million last year.
“In an effort to attract more Hong Kong tourists to Taiwan, I personally took the first group of Hong Kong travelers entering the country to the famous Longshan Temple (龍山寺) and Wanhua night market in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) during my tenure as Taipei mayor,” Ma said.
Ma added that there has been a big increase in the number of tourists from Southeast Asian nations to Taiwan during the same period, with the number of visits by Malaysian travelers increasing the most.
Ma said that Taiwan-Hong Kong relations had improved noticeably over the past three years, citing the name change of Taiwan’s representative office in the territory in July 2011 from Chung Hwa Travel Service to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong.
Ma added that Hong Kong ranked first among the four Asian Tigers in terms of GDP growth in the first quarter of this year, while Taiwan was second with GDP growth of 1.67 percent.
Praising the growth of Taiwan’s tourism industry, Ma said while the nation has long seen the number of outbound travelers exceed the number of inbound visitors, the gap has narrowed over the past few years.
“Last year, the number of outbound travelers and inbound visitors stood at 10.26 million and 7.31 million respectively. We are confident that the latter could increase to 10 million within three years,” Ma said.
Turning to economic issues, Ma said his administration not only welcomed investment exchanges between Taiwan and Hong Kong, but also increased investment from China-based Taiwanese businesspeople.
Ma said that since the government had initiated a scheme to promote investment from China-based Taiwanese businesspeople in September last year, 31 China-based Taiwanese firms had invested a total of NT$170 billion (US$5.65 billion) in Taiwan.
“These investments are expected to help create 27,000 job opportunities,” Ma said.