China's new top negotiator plans first Taiwan visit

China's top negotiator with Taiwan Chen Deming is expected to visit the island before year-end in his first trip to Taipei since taking office earlier this year, officials said Wednesday.

Chen, who was commerce minister from December 2007 to March 2013, was inaugurated in April as president of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), which handles exchanges with Taiwan in the absence of official contacts.

Officials at ARATS's Taiwanese counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation, confirmed they were arranging Chen Deming's visit.

"Chen is likely to visit late November or early December," said spokesman Maa Shaw-chang.

"Given his background as the former commerce minister, his first visit will centre on some things related to bilateral economic and trade exchanges," Maa said.

The spokesman said Chen may visit Taiwan's science-based industrial parks, harbours and local businesses, but a detailed itinerary has yet to be finalised.

Taiwan's Kuomintang government has been struggling to secure parliament's approval of a controversial trade pact with China.

Under the agreement signed in June, China will open 80 of its service sectors to Taiwanese companies, while Taiwan will in turn allow Chinese investment in 64 service sectors.

Taiwan's government said the pact will benefit the economy, but it is strongly opposed by the opposition who fear the pact will hurt smaller service companies and cost many Taiwanese their jobs.

The pact is one of the follow-up agreements to the sweeping Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in 2010 to reduce trade barriers.

China still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, even though the two sides split back in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

But relations have warmed since Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 on a platform of strengthening trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in January 2012.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 2 hours 20 minutes ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 3 hours ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Why you can't buy America's greenest car 6 hours ago
    Why you can't buy America's greenest car

    Ask me or any auto expert what's the fastest car you can buy for any given amount, and we could easily cough up several options. Same for most luxurious, or off-roadable, or any other measurement. Yet there's one type of question that's far harder to answer: What's the greenest, most environmentally friendly car you can buy today?

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.