Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chinese FITs to Taiwan

l  It’s been a year since the “free independent traveler” (FIT) program became available for Chinese tourists to Taiwan. Originally set at 500 a day, the limit has been adjusted upward to 1,000.

l However, the total number of Chinese FIT applicants—approximately 100,000—is significantly below Taiwan government's original projections. Among the many factors, the complicated, time-consuming application process has turned many prospective applicants away.

l Compared with roughly 14 million Chinese FITs to Hong Kong every year, the disappointing number has frustrated local merchants, particularly retailers and hotel operators.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Ma administration rocked by corruption scandals

l  Former Cabinet Secretary-General Lin Yi-shih was taken into custody on July 2 after the Special Investigation Division (SID) obtained evidence confirming corruption allegations against him.

l  Former Taipei District Court subsequently rendered a judgment to retain Lin incommunicado for up to two months. Within three days, Lin’s wife and mother were also charged with “aiding and perpetuating” the alleged acts of corruption and money laundering.

l  Allegations of corruption against Lin—and his subsequent admission for taking the money—dealt a serious blow to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and the administration that have long emphasized clean government as a “core value.”

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

ARATS-SEF summit now set for early August

l  Beijing and Taipei have apparently wrapped up the final phase of negotiations for the much-anticipated mutual investment protection agreement.

l  The plan remains to have the agreement signed at the next cross-Strait summit between China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in Taipei.

l Since the pre-summit preparations will take approximately one month, the next ARATS-SEF summit is projected to take place, at the earliest, in early August.

l  As for the summit venue, it will probably again take place at Taipei's Grand Hotel, where the ARATS-SEF summit--the first one in Taiwan--was held in December 2008.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Behind the rhetoric at the Fourth Cross-Strait Forum

l  The Fourth Cross-Strait Forum was held in Xiamen during June 14-16. Over 6,000 Taiwanese attendees took part in this annual event that has now become the largest platform for cross-Strait non-political exchanges.

l  Since 2009, Beijing has often used the occasion to promulgate policies deemed beneficial to the people of Taiwan. This year was no exception.

l  First, Beijing plans to extend the validity of travel documents for Taiwanese people visiting China from one to two years, with more cities added to offer landing-visa services.

l  Furthermore, China will allow imports of Taiwanese rice and increase the number of tourist groups allowed to visit Taiwan, as well as expanding the scope of the Free Independent Traveler (FIT) program for Chinese visitors to the island.

l  At the same time, the Bank of China (BOC), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the China Construction Bank (CCB) and the China Development Bank (CDB) will offer Renminbi (RMB) 600 billion, or US$94.25 billion, in loans in the next 3-4 years to Taiwanese businesses seeking to expand operations on the mainland.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Early speculations on the 2014 Taipei mayoral race

l  Though it’s still two years away, the 2014 Taipei mayoral race has already become a hot issue for both ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

l  For the ruling party, early speculations are primarily focused on the current Vice Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Sean Lien Sheng-wen, son of former Vice President Lien Chan.

l  The younger Lien is apparently more popular with the grassroots, but he needs to persuade his family first. Jiang, on the other hand, has advanced rapidly since joining the Ma administration in May 2008, and the primary support for his candidacy apparently comes from Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou.

l  As for the DPP is apparently debating over possibly initiating a “generational change” and nominate promising newcomers in key races of the 2014 campaign. At the moment, there is no intraparty consensus on whether the DPP should attempt to nominate more “fresh faces” or one of the “old guards.”

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

And the beef goes on…

l  In the end, Typhoon Tamlin saved the day as Taiwan's Legislative Yuan (LY) decided to postpone the planned extraordinary session to mid-July, in order to vote on lifting the current ban on ractopamine.

l  Although Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has been keen on pushing the proposed amendments through, the level of resistance, in and out of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), has far exceeded the government’s expectations. In fact, some KMT legislators have suggested that the Executive Yuan (EY) should just issue an executive order to “put the controversy to rest.”

l  More importantly the postponement averted a potentially violent clash between the ruling KMT and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that would have further divided Taiwan.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Consumer confidence continued to decline in Taiwan

l  Amidst lingering global economic uncertainties, the public’s confidence in Taiwan's economy has continued its downward trend in recent months.

l The level of public confidence toward the island’s economy slumped to its lowest level in two years. The disappointing numbers also suggested that there is growing public concern over both global and domestic factors which could further impact Taiwan’s export-oriented economy.

l  Heavily dependent on trade, Taiwan's economic growth this year has been seriously hampered by the ongoing global economic downturn, evidenced by May's annual export growth rate falling to -6.3 percent.

l Since many of its trading partners are still struggling economically, Taiwan's exports could get worse before making a sustained turnaround. At the same time, Taiwan's Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics (DGBAS) also revised its 2012 annual economic growth rate down to 3.03 percent, indicating that a recovery does not appear imminent anytime soon.

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