Beijing unveils ports plan
China plans a major new port project on its southeastern coast near Taiwan, a step toward what it hopes will be "free trade" with Taiwan, state media reported yesterday. The port complex near the city of Xiamen will be one of two new ocean shipping centers, with another planned for the southern coast of Guangdong Province, west of Hong Kong, the state-run newspaper China Daily reported, citing the Ministry of Communications. The plan to build up ports in and near Xiamen is part of a "Western Shore Economic Zone" planned for the Taiwan Strait, the report said. China needs to upgrade its transport networks to match its economic growth, it cited Communications Minister Li Shenglin (李盛霖) as saying. Li said the Xiamen port was in preparation for "mainland-Taiwan free trade relations," the newspaper reported.
Japan eyes jet project
Stung by repeated setbacks, Japan's space agency plans to start talks next month with NASA about jointly developing a supersonic successor to the retired Concorde, an official said yesterday. Japan is trying to leapfrog ahead in the aerospace field with a plan to build a next-generation airliner that can fly between Tokyo and Los Angeles in about three hours. But a string of glitches, including a nose cone problem during the latest test flight in March, has led the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to look for an international partner. "In the future, we think we need some kind of cooperation with NASA," JAXA spokesman Kiyotaka Yashiro said. Japanese researchers and engineers plan to meet counterparts from the US space agency next month to discuss possible cooperation, Yashiro said, calling next month's meeting a "first step."
Vodafone to slash tariffs
Vodafone, the world's biggest mobile phone company, announced plans yesterday to slash the amount it charges EU customers for making and receiving calls when abroad. The move followed the European Commission's recent publication of proposals aimed at forcing telecommunications companies to reduce so-called "roaming" tariffs within the EU. "Vodafone announces today that average European roaming costs for Vodafone customers will be cut by at least 40 percent by April next year, when compared to last summer," the telecoms giant said. The group added that the average call charge for a European customer when travelling within the EU should fall to below .0.0055 euros (US$0.007) per minute.
Kia finishes European plant
South Korea's Kia Motors said yesterday it had completed its first European car plant in Slovakia and expects mass production to be underway by year-end. Kia Motors, an affiliate of South Korea's largest auto manufacturer Hyundai Motor, began constructing the 1 billion euro (US$1.2 billion) factory in Zilina, Slovakia, in October 2004. The Kia Motors Slovakia (KMS) plant already employs 1,200 locals and plans to hire up to 3,000 by 2009 to build around 300,000 cars a year, the company said. "We are now in a position to deliver high quality cars to the European market and achieve the highest satisfaction for our customers," KMS president Bae In-kyu said in a statement issued here.