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Talks on Taiwan investing in Indonesian island yet to happen: envoy

2010/12/04 12:07:19

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) Recently improved relations between Taiwanand China have enhanced Taiwan’s trade ties with Indonesia, but noformal talks have been launched on the possibility of Taiwaninvesting in an Indonesian island, said Andrew Hsia, Taiwan’s topenvoy to Indonesia, last week.

Earlier this year, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonothrough his ministers invited Taiwan to invest in Moratai Island, anisland one-15th the size of Taiwan, with an area of 2,400 squarekilometers on the northern tip of Indonesia.

The proposal was made to Taiwan’s economics minister ShihYen-shiang, who led a delegation of over 100 people to Indonesia inOctober to study the Southeast Asian country's economic and tradeenvironment.

Hsia, who has visited Moratai, said the sparsely populated islandof roughly 50,000 people is a prime location for investments infishery, agriculture, light industry, and tourism because it does notexperience typhoons or cold fronts.

Once the former military headquarters for U.S. General DouglasMacArthur during World War II, the remote islet is equipped with aseven-runway airport, which adds to its appeal, Hsia said.

According to some newspaper reports, the deal could be cementedin early 2011. However, Hsia insisted no timeline has been set.

“Both sides are carefully evaluating the options. There arestill many outstanding issues to be assessed such as what are thecollective interests in this project and what mutual benefits mightarise from this collaboration, ”said the former deputy foreignminister, adding that both sides are still mulling over the details.

While crediting warming China-Taiwan relations as a key factor inthe improved Taiwan-Indonesia ties, the representative said a formaltrade pact with Jakarta still remains in the far distance.

“Both sides are very positive about our current traderelationship, but we are still not at a stage where we can even beginto discuss a free trade agreement,”he said.

As the largest economy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia has long beenviewed favorably by Taiwanese investors, especially after theformation of an ASEAN-China Free Trade Area which went into effect onJanuary 1 this year.

Indonesia is Taiwan’s 10th largest trade partner. Taiwan’sinvestments in Indonesia have amounted to over US$13.9 billion.

Taiwan is also the most popular destination for Indonesianoverseas workers due to its higher salary and good benefits, saidHsia.

According to the Council of Labor Affairs, there are around150,000 Indonesian workers in Taiwan, which accounts for 40 percentof Taiwan’s foreign labor force.

On a people-to-people level, Taiwan and Indonesia share closeties. Last week, the Indonesia city of Singkawang became a sistercity of Taoyuan County’s Yangmei City.

During the initial aftermath of the recent volcanic eruptions inIndonesia's Mount Merapi, Taiwanese compatriots in Indonesia donatedblankets, slippers, and T-shirts to the local residents. The combinedmoney donated from the Taiwanese government and Taiwanese publicreached over US$370,000.

(By Jenny W. Hsu)