Taipei okays currency exchanges on islands

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2005, 12:00am

Taiwan is to allow currency exchanges between the new Taiwan dollar and the yuan on a trial basis on the outlying islands of Quemoy and Matsu.

The measure, which takes effect from Monday, was announced by Taiwanese Premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, who described it as a measure of the Taiwanese government's goodwill to the mainland.

'Residents of Kinmen [Quemoy] and Matsu, mainland-based Taiwanese businessmen and ... mainland tourists are to be allowed to exchange the new Taiwan dollar and the yuan on the two islets,' Mr Hsieh said during a cabinet meeting in Taipei.

He said up to 20,000 yuan (NT$80,000) could be exchanged in each transaction.

But Mr Hsieh said that until both sides signed a currency-clearance agreement, it was unlikely the scheme could be extended from Quemoy and Matsu - which lie opposite the mainland cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou - to the rest of Taiwan.

He called on Beijing to hold talks quickly with Taipei on currency clearance to help businessmen and tourists. Demand for currency exchanges has grown since the Taiwanese government opened the 'mini-three links' - trade, transport and postal links - between Quemoy/Matsu and Xiamen/Fuzhou in 2001.

Mainland Affairs Council economic director Fu Tung-cheng said he expected the number of Taiwanese returning from the mainland via the two islands to exceed 500,000 this year.

In addition, about 2,000 mainland visitors from Fujian province , including tourists and businessmen, travel to the two islands each month.

Taiwan's central bank said the exchange would initially be conducted at six branches operated by the Bank of Taiwan and the Land Bank beginning on Monday. Hotels on the two islands would also be commissioned to offer the service.