Taiwan News: Govt Plans Interpol Access, Economy's Competitiveness Improves

Taiwan News: Govt Plans Interpol Access, Economy's Competitiveness Improves
Credit: Reuters / TPG

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Your daily bulletin of Taiwan news, courtesy of ICRT.

Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said Wednesday that the government's plans to secure observer status at next month's Interpol General Assembly are related to Taiwan's desire to participate in the global police body in a meaningful way.

According to Hsu, China is still trying to block Taiwan from joining Interpol, but the government hopes it will reconsider such actions because Taiwan's presence can benefit Beijing.

The minister said the government is actively working to gain admittance to the general assembly by seeking international support and already has the backing of the United States.

However, the minister says China is the only country standing in the way and "this greatly affects the fight against drugs" because of the importance of international cooperation in cracking down on drug smuggling.

Authorities indicate that 70 percent of the illegal drugs in Taiwan come from China.

The U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week reiterated its support for Taiwan's meaningful participation in Interpol, saying the island's participation would contribute to regional international security.

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Premier William Lai (賴清德) has said Taiwan's rankings in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report for this year show that efforts to push for economic transformation and improve the investment environment are earning international recognition.

Taiwan placed 13th among 140 countries in the latest Global Competitiveness Report released by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. Taiwan placed 15th in the equivalent rankings in 2017.

It also ranked fourth among 17 economies in the East Asia and the Pacific, finishing behind Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, but ahead of Australia, South Korea and New Zealand.

According to Lai, of the 98 factors cited by the World Economic Forum in its assessment, Taiwan made the top 10 in 18 categories.

The National Development Council added that the statistics show that government policy to optimizes the investment environment in innovation and startups and promote innovative industries is paying off.

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The Straits Exchange Foundation has said it is willing to invite the head of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits for talks this year.

According to foundation Deputy Secretary-General Kuan An-lu (管安露), though dialogue between the two sides has been stalled since May 2016, her office remains open to exchanges.

Kuan said the government is hoping Zhang Zhijun will accept an invitation to visit Taiwan before the end of the year in order to mark the 20th anniversary of the historic meeting in Shanghai between the first heads of the two organizations.

Kuan also said that a communications mechanism between the two sides still exists, even though Beijing's unilateral suspension of cross-Strait dialogue has caused problems between the people of the two sides.

Straits Exchange Foundation Chairwoman Katherine Chang (張小月) has previously said she would be willing to visit China for talks with her counterpart, if such an opportunity arises.

海峽交流基金會董事長張小月
Photo Credit: 中央社
Straits Exchange Foundation Chairwoman Katherine Chang remains open to talks with her Chinese counterparts.

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Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has confirmed that the government and Paraguay are discussing details of a US$150-million investment by Taiwan.

According to Wu, the matter was addressed during a state-visit to Taiwan last week by Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez.

Wu said no details have yet been agreed on by the two sides and the exact amount of the outlay has yet to be determined, but the investment is expected to come in the form of bank loans and foreign aid.

Speaking at a legislative hearing, Wu told lawmakers the proposal does not represent a return to checkbook diplomacy or competition with China for allies and will be part of the government's Official Development Assistance program.

That program is designed to help countries develop infrastructure while also securing business for Taiwanese contractors.

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
Read More:Taiwan Seeks to Pioneer ODA Financing Model with Haitian Power Grid Contract

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Vice Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua (王美花) has said she believes Taiwan's recent designation as a "developed economy" at the World Trade Organization (WTO) shows commitment to connect to the wider global market.

The statement comes after Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) confirmed that Taiwan has upgraded its WTO status from a "developing" member to "developed" member for future negotiations at the world trade body.

According to Wang, that decision will benefit Taiwan in terms of connecting to free trade economies around the globe and could help it join regional economic blocs, including the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has so far been signed by 11 countries.

Wang said Taiwan has made significant moves toward actively engaging in trade liberalization initiatives and becoming more open to international trade and integration since it joined the WTO in 2002 and the latest decision should increase trade opportunities.

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The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has said it will refuse to approve Yang Tsui (楊翠)'s appointment as acting chairperson of the Transitional Justice Commission.

Yang currently serves as the commission's spokeswoman and was appointed acting chair earlier this week by Premier William Lai following the departure of Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄), who resigned nearly two weeks ago.

However, according to KMT caucus whip Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), Yang's political leanings make her unfit to serve as commission head, as the post should be filled by a nonpartisan and objective candidate.

Chiang is accusing the premier of exploiting a legal loophole by making the appointment without legislative backing.

He also said the KMT will now seek to file an administrative lawsuit demanding the commission cease operations until a more suitable candidate for the post is put forward.

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Japanese budget airline Peach Aviation has issued an apology and offered to compensate passengers on two of its flights after it refused to let them leave their planes when the flights were diverted from Kaohsiung to Taoyuan International Airport.

According to the carrier, each passenger will be entitled to claim NT$4,000 (US$129) in compensation and be given 1,400 points towards the future purchase of tickets from the airline.

The apology comes after a flight from Okinawa and another flight from Kansai were diverted to Taoyuan following the closure of Kaohsiung International Airport on Tuesday.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration said the pilots of both flights were informed by air traffic control at Taoyuan that the passengers could disembark after they landed.

However, the passengers were not allowed to leave the planes and the aircraft returned to Japan, where the passengers reportedly had to pay for hotel rooms as they waited for the next available flights back to Taiwan.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG
Peach Aviation: Not so peachy when it comes to treatment of passengers.

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The Center for Disease Control has said over 200,000 doses of flu vaccines were administered on the first day of government's free vaccination program.

The government launched its annual free flu vaccination program Monday at hospitals and other medical facilities islandwide, starting with people in high-risk groups.

This year's program is being carried out in two stages and is aimed at increasing the free vaccination coverage to 25 percent of the population.

According to health officials, a total of 6 million flu vaccines will be made available in the first phase.

And that phase includes people aged 50 and over, pregnant women, mothers with babies younger than six months, children aged between six months and preschool years, nursing home residents, healthcare workers, and people with chronic illnesses.

Elementary and high school students will be able to receive the free vaccine from November 1 in the second phase of the program.

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The National Immigration Agency has said it has arrested five foreign nationals suspected of involvement in cross-border human trafficking.

The five were detained while attempting to board flights to various locations at Taoyuan International Airport.

Three of suspects were traveling on what have been confirmed to be altered Albanian passports.

And immigration officers say they paid 4,000 euros (US$4,600) to a human trafficking ring for the passports.

The two other suspects were detained while trying to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur.

Authorities said the ringleader of the human trafficking gang, who was one of those detained, has both Iraqi and Swedish citizenship and was on an international watch list.

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The Ministry of Justice says despite the deaths of 28 people from using new narcotics in the first eight months of this year, there has been a drop in number of such deaths, which shows that government anti-drug efforts are working.

Figures show that 100 people died from consuming so-called new narcotics in 2017.

However, officials said the fast spread and penetration of new narcotics is still a serious concern to authorities.

Statistics compiled by prosecutors show the number of regular drug users in Taiwan has exceeded 60,000 and more than 800 types of liquid narcotics alone are now available.

A total of 68,488 cases involving the use of new narcotics were recorded in the first half of this year, a large jump from 45,021 in the first half of 2017.

Authorities are warning that new narcotics such as MDPV and mephedrone are becoming increasingly difficult for police to crack down on.

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Gogoro has said it will share its battery-swapping facilities with two other domestic companies that are planning to launch their own electric scooter models next year.

According to Gogoro founder and CEO Horace Luke, the partnership with Aeon Motors and PGO Scooters will help expand his company's business and trigger a wave of new industries and possibilities.

Luke said Gogoro currently has 100,000 users in Taiwan, with usage of its battery swapping system averaging one swap per second across its 800 GoStations.

Aeon Motors will release its first-generation electric motorbikes next summer, while PGO Scooters will launch its model in the second half of 2019.

Both will use batteries that are compatible with Gogoro's battery swapping stations.

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Credit: INSIDE
Read More: Electric Scooter Maker Gogoro Turns to AI, Smart Grids

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Sources suggest two sites are being assessed as possible locations for a naphtha cracker plant to be jointly built by state refiner CPC Corp. and Indonesia's state-run oil and gas company, PT Pertamina.

Reports are citing a source at Pertamina as saying the plant could be built in Tuban, on the north coast of Java or in Balongan in west Java.

CPC has said the two sides are still conducting a feasibility study on the construction of the new naphtha cracker plant and are expected to come up with a comprehensive investment project in the first half of next year.

The joint venture is expected to cost NT$200 billion.

CPC and Pertamina are each expected to hold a 45 percent stake in the project, while Taiwanese and foreign companies in the petrochemical downstream sector will take the remaining 10 percent.

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This news bulletin was provided courtesy of International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), Taiwan’s leading English-language broadcaster.

Editor: David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)

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