Taiwan-China ties too loose - European business leaders

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan and China must further strengthen trade and transit ties, with special focus on visas and cargo shipments, to improve the business climate for foreign firms, European business leaders said on Wednesday.

Chinese nationals need to be able to get hassle-free business visas for conferences and multinational company meetings in Taiwan, and newly launched direct cargo links between the two sides should be opened to foreign carriers, the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei said in an annual position paper.

China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary. But China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has pushed for landmark trade and transit ties since taking office in May.

Earlier this month, the two sides signed a series of agreements allowing daily direct charter passenger flights, 60 direct cargo flights per month and direct cargo shipments between 11 Taiwan and 63 China ports.

“What you’ve done so far is good, but you really need to capitalise on it,” chamber Chairman Philippe Pellegrin said, addressing Taiwan officials, at a meeting to release the paper.

European businesses have invested about 19.2 billion euros ($25 billion) in Taiwan, ahead of the United States and Japan.

The position paper also recommends tax reforms, giving foreign company access to local construction projects and asks Taiwan to lift import restrictions on goods from China.

Of the paper’s 174 business issues, 128 are left over from previous years, a sign of “mounting frustration about unfair treatment” of foreign firms in Taiwan, Pellegrin said.

But the government takes the position paper seriously, he said. A Taiwan planning official told the chamber meeting that the government was already making headway.

Editing by Jan Dahinten