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Nov 02. 2009, No. 074

  • Date:2009-11-02

Johnnason Liu: The people of Taiwan have enjoyed substantial benefits since the signing of the four agreements nearly a year ago

According to some media reports, the opposition party believes that, in signing the four agreements during the second Chiang-Chen Talks, Taiwan "made too many concessions, thus causing public doubts about its ability to engage in negotiations." In response, MAC Deputy Minister Johnnason Liu indicates that the four agreements signed nearly a year ago have brought considerable substantial benefits to the normalization of cross-strait economic and trade exchanges. The opposition party’s criticism and the media reports are broadly inconsistent with the facts. A special clarification is provided as follows:

1. Mainland tourists have not squeezed out international visitors: Since July 18, 2008, when Mainland tourists were first allowed to visit Taiwan, they have made nearly 470,000 person-trips to Taiwan, generating about NT$31 billion in foreign exchange revenue for Taiwan. Moreover, the number of person-trips made by international tourists visiting Taiwan from January to September this year also rose by 4.1 percent compared to the same period the year before, clearly showing that Mainland tourists have not squeezed out international visitors.

2. The signing of the Cross-Strait Air Transport Agreement has increased passenger flight points and flights, as well as greatly reduced flight time: Since July 4, 2008, Taiwan has successively implemented weekend charter flights, weekday charter flights, and regular cross-strait flights, which have transported a total of 2.56 million cross-strait passengers. Airfares on all of the air routes, except for the Xiamen-Haikou route, have fallen. The fare reduction has averaged about 14 percent, with fares for the Taoyuan-Wuhan route dropping as much as 32 percent.

3. The Cross-Strait Sea Transport Agreement is also applicable to the flag-of-convenience vessels owned by shipping companies on either side of the Taiwan Strait: After the signing of the agreement, Taiwanese ships no longer need to detour via Japan’s Ishigaki Island, saving on average approximately 16 to 27 hours per voyage, and reducing shipping costs by 15 to 30 percent. Flag-of-convenient vessels that are currently already engaging in offshore shipping center transport, cross-strait third-territory container line transport, and sand and gravel transport, may, with special permission, also enjoy the benefits of direct cross-strait transport links under the cross-strait sea transport agreement.

4. The Cross-Strait Postal Service Agreement is conducive to remitting capital back to Taiwan: The main benefit of the postal service agreement is to improve the time efficiency and security of cross-strait postal services. As for postal remittances, in the past, Taiwan residents were allowed to make postal remittances to the Mainland. This agreement expands on this by allowing remittances from the Mainland to Taiwan, which will help Taiwanese to remit their capital back to Taiwan.

5. The two sides have established institutionalized liaison windows and a normal exchange mechanism for food safety: The institutionalized cross-strait liaison window for food safety-related issues was established on the day when the agreement came into effect, providing a channel for carrying out prompt notification of major food safety information. Over 400 cases have been handled through this channel over the past year. Furthermore, the two sides have established a normalized exchange mechanism and related work teams to upgrade the efficiency of cross-strait food safety management.

Deputy Minister Liu further states that, with the Lunar New Year holidays approaching, the health authorities in Taiwan have strengthened inspection of Lunar New Year foods. On October 4, 2009, they detected pesticide residue on tremella imported from mainland China. They not only posted this information on the "Unsafe Imports Information Website" of the Cabinet-level Consumer Protection Commission, but they also ordered that the said products be immediately removed from store shelves. Taiwan also immediately notified the Mainland side of this matter via the liaison channels established under the food safety agreement to demand prompt improvement. In addition, the Mainland side used this channel to promptly inform the Taiwan side of a recent case in which Taiwan’s Wei Chuan milk powder and Uni-President sweetened soy milk that have been exported to mainland China failed to meet the Mainland’s sanitation standards.

6. Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement: Since this agreement came into effect, the two sides have made various types of requests for mutual assistance in handling 2,299 criminal cases. Furthermore, in April and June this year, the Mainland side repatriated two major wanted criminals back to Taiwan. The two sides also conducted joint investigations that broke up three telecommunication fraud rings. Definite results have been achieved and the MAC will continue to pay close attention to this matter.

Citing data released by the Criminal Investigation Bureau on September 8, Deputy Minister Liu indicates that Taiwanese residents had established a telephone fraud base in Chengdu. On September 8, the police on the two sides conducted a simultaneous raid at over 20 locations, including Taipei City and Taipei County as well as Taoyuan, Yilan and Changhua counties in Taiwan and Chengdu in mainland China, respectively. The Taiwan side arrested 23 people, and the Mainland side arrested eight Taiwanese organizers and their accomplices, for a total of 32 arrests. The case is now under active investigation and processing. Deputy Minister Liu states that when a mechanism is formed, a breaking-in period is required before it can properly operate. However, through mutual assistance among public security authorities, definite results have been achieved to date. The MAC will also continue to closely express concern over this matter.

Deputy Minister Liu emphasizes that, since the establishment of institutionalized negotiation channels, the two sides have held three rounds of Chiang-Chen Talks, successfully signed nine agreements, and reached one consensus. All of the benefits from the agreements are shared jointly by the entire public. The two sides have also continually communicated with each other to handle matters that require further improvement through relevant mechanisms. Related news reports therefore should not intentionally obliterate the fact that the substantial benefits have indeed been brought by these agreements.