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Taipei, March 20 (CNA) Taiwan is planning to extend its visa-free preferential treatment for visitors from Thailand and Brunei when the current one-year trial period expires in July, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Monday.
Chung We-Cheng (鍾文正), deputy director-general of the MOFA's Bureau of Consular Affairs, said in a legislative committee hearing that since visa-free treatment for citizens of Thailand and Brunei was introduced on a trial basis last August, visitor arrivals from the two countries have increased.
The foreign ministry is looking to extend the visa-free status of both countries for at least another year, as long as it finds no irregularities, Chung told the legislative Transportation Committee.
Citing government statistics, Chung said arrivals from Thailand and Brunei for the period of August to December 2016 rose 81 percent and 62 percent, respectively, from a year earlier.
The increase in visitor arrivals from the two countries was topped only by arrivals from Cambodia, which grew 153 percent in the same period, he said.
On Aug. 1, 2016, Taiwan implemented a one-year trial period of visa-free treatment for visitors from Thailand and Brunei for stays of up to 30 days.
The move was part of Taiwan government's New Southbound Policy, which is aimed at developing closer ties with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), India, Australia and New Zealand.
The Democratic Progressive Party government, which took office in May 2016, is hoping that the policy will help diversify investment and trade so that Taiwan will be less economically dependent on China.
Chung said the efforts were already paying off as visitor arrivals from the 18 targeted countries had increased by more than 150,000 in the period August-December 2016 from a year earlier.
The foreign ministry is considering the possibility of granting visa-free status to other countries under the New Southbound Policy, in particular states in the ASEAN bloc, Chung said.
(By Chen Chun-hua and Frances Huang)