Taiwan vows to ease restrictions as mainland investors complain

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 December, 2009, 12:00am

Taiwan will further open up to investment from across the strait after complaints by mainland businesspeople about heavy restrictions set by the island.

The decision was announced yesterday during an investment seminar attended by top mainland envoy Chen Yunlin and 17 mainland business leaders whose combined assets exceed one trillion yuan (HK$1.13 trillion).

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the seminar in the central city of Taichung, Chen said Taiwan's highly restrictive environment was to blame for the lacklustre performance of mainland investments on the island.

'This is because of the strict control by Taiwan over mainland investments,' said Chen, chairman of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, after his Taiwanese counterpart, Chiang Pin-kung of the Straits Exchange Foundation, urged mainland businesspeople to pump more money into Taiwan.

Hoping mainland investments could help improve the island's sagging economy, the government of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou loosened a six-decade restriction on such investments on June 30, allowing companies to invest in 192 types of manufacturing, service and infrastructure businesses.

But a number of restrictions remain - for example, mainland investors cannot invest directly in Taiwan's equity market - resulting in a lack of interest from the mainland. There are also complaints from mainland businesspeople about the slow processing of visitor permits by Taiwan.

According to the Investment Commission, under Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs, there have been 22 investments worth a total of NT$1.15 billion (HK$276 million) from the mainland since July.

Straits Exchange Foundation deputy chairman Kao Koong-lian, who also attended the seminar, told a news conference that the Taiwanese government would start the next round of opening to encourage more mainlanders to invest in the island.

Kao said the 17 mainland entrepreneurs expressed keen interest in investing in Taiwan, especially in the areas of innovation, and in research-and-development sectors. 'They were concerned about whether the know-how from research-and- development investment could be transferred.'

Kao said the entrepreneurs were also concerned about whether they would enjoy incentives for their investments in Taiwan.

Ling Chia-yu, director general of the Department of Investment Services under Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs, who also attended the seminar, said the island's legislature was reviewing an incentive regulation governing preferential treatment for innovative industries.

'As long as a mainland investor sets up a company in line with Taiwan's regulations, such a company is able to enjoy the incentives,' he said.

The seminar was the last scheduled meeting attended by Chen, who arrived in Taichung on Monday for a two-day fourth summit with his counterpart and signed three agreements on industrial, agricultural and fisheries co-operation, despite protests by anti-Beijing activists. A small group of pro-independence activists shot firecrackers at the Windsor Hotel where Chen was staying.

Chanting 'Taiwan and China on each side of the Taiwan Strait', the activists lit the firecrackers from a small open truck across the street. A police officer fell from the truck, suffering a head injury, and was taken to hospital. Six activists on the truck were arrested.

Chen will wrap up his five-day Taiwan visit and return to Beijing tomorrow.