Former Taiwan official Vincent Siew called for agricultural co-operations between the mainland and Taiwan at the ongoing Ninth China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) in Xiamen yesterday.
    "Both parties across the Taiwan Straits should establish a technological scheme to protect normal agricultural co-operation," said Vincent Siew, now chairman of Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation, to a forum on experimental areas showcasing agricultural co-operation across the Taiwan Straits.
    "Expanding exchange and co-operation in the agricultural sector across the Taiwan Straits conforms to the aspiration of the people from both sides," remarked Li Shuilin, chairman of the Cross-Straits Association for Exchanges in Economy and Trade.
    He added that central authorities on the Chinese mainland had already adopted a series of measures and implemented a wide range of policies to promote mutual co-operation in agriculture.
    In August, the mainland officially implemented a zero-tariff scheme for 15 kinds of Taiwan fruits.
    Since 1997, the mainland has approved several experimental areas for agriculture in Fujian, Hainan, Shandong, Heilongjiang and Shaanxi provinces, providing a platform for Taiwan agricultural enterprises to invest on the mainland.
    The first batch of experimental areas in Fuzhou and Zhangzhou cities, both in Fujian Province, have enjoyed great success.     The majority of Taiwan agricultural enterprises in the areas make handsome profits and are enlarging their production scales.
    Most Taiwan invested enterprises in Fujian have advanced equipment, solid assets and complete sales networks, and their success has stimulated related industries, such as tinned food processing, refrigeration, and packaging.
    "In July, the central government approved the expansion of experimental areas in Fuzhou and Zhangzhou to the whole province. The operation of the areas is a major task in the construction of the Taiwan Straits West Coast Economic Zone," said Liu Dezhang, deputy governor of Fujian Province.
    Agricultural co-operation with Taiwan has enabled Fujian to develop lucrative products for the domestic market, such as Dongshan asparagus and abalone, oolong tea from Anxi and Nanjing orchids.
    "The mainland would step up co-operation and exchange with Taiwan in fields such as improved varieties of fruits, particularly tropical kinds, flowers, seed resources, and advanced cultivation techniques," said Yu Yongwei, director of Taiwan Affairs Office with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and head of the Cross-Straits Association for Exchange in Agriculture.
    Taiwan businessmen were also encouraged to invest in mainland projects including aquatic products, pig rearing and the constructing breeding farms with sewage treatment facilities.
    Yu also expressed his hope that efforts will be made in the future to establish schemes concerning agricultural co-operation across the Straits, to solve trade disputes through consultation and co-ordination.
    Cross-Straits co-operation has been fervently pursued following the visits of Taiwan opposition leaders Lien Chan and James Soong to the mainland in May.
    "Thirty-three tons of fruit arrived at Mawei Port in Fuzhou of Fujian Province on Saturday, followed by a further 14-ton consignment on Sunday transported on the direct sea link," China Daily reported on May 17.
    And on July 18, tariff-free Taiwan fruit imports, covering 19 varieties and totalling nine tons, were on show at the Cross-Straits Agricultural Co-operation Exhibition in Shanghai.
    Italy opened its arms to Chinese firms looking to establish subsidiaries in Europe at the 2005 China International Fair for Investment and Trade yesterday.
    "Italy, as one of the eight most important economies in the world, has 58 million sophisticated customers that are receptive to innovative products and services," said Giampaolo Russo, Invest in Italy's director of Inward Investment. "It also has 24 million potential customers in the Mediterranean basin and Balkan countries."
    He added that Italy has a strategic geographic location, offering Chinese enterprises access to three interesting markets: EU countries, the Balkans and Russian region, and the Southern Mediterranean area.
    "Quality, creativity and innovation make Italy stand out from other European countries, with strong abilities in research and development. This environment can provide Chinese investors with a unique opportunity for added value, not only by enhancing their image in local Chinese markets, but also promoting them to the international market," he said.
    Russo listed five main sectors likely to be of interest to Chinese investors: automotive components, information communication technology, life sciences, logistics and tourism.
    "The automotive sector is Italian manufacturing's major player, with outstanding design, technology and performance. We can offer foreign investors an array of avenues for expansion, with our solid manufacturing foundation and advanced technology," Russo said.
    Citing Chinese firm Chang'An Automobile Co's plans to establish a research and development base alongside its current Italian operation, he championed Italy's rich R&D capabilities as well as its logistical advantages.
    "Chinese enterprises can save at least 20 per cent in costs by shipping their products via Italy to Europe, compared with any other route. It can also save four to five days," he said.
    So far 15 Chinese enterprises have invested in Italy, including Chang'An, Huawei, Cosco and Haier.
    Liao Xiaoqi, vice-minister of commerce, said Chinese enterprises have relatively small investment in Italy, and that the Chinese Government is willing to work with the Italian side to help more Chinese enterprises find a footing there.
    The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding at the fair, in a bid to enhance economic ties.
    Statistics from the Ministry of Commerce indicated that by the end of last year, Italy had 2,720 investment projects in China, with a total investment of US$2.95 billion, while Chinese investment in Italy is only US$34.36 million.
    Bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$10.8 billion in the first seven months of this year, up by 24.1 per cent year-on-year.
    Invest in Italy is a government agency, founded last July. Its China office is in Shanghai and offers free consulting services to Chinese enterprises.
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    Fujian-based Sedrin Brewery Company, one of China's biggest beer producers, is looking for foreign investment to help it expand its business at home and abroad.
    The company, with a total assets over 1.1 billion yuan (US$135 million), recently listed its 39.48 per cent of State-owned assets for bidding and transferring in the Fujian Provincial Assets and Equity Exchange Centre, in a bid to find foreign partners.
    Insiders said that the move will help the company better liquidize its remnant State-owned assets and foster new growth areas for future development.
    And with co-operation deals all the rage in the global brewery industry at present, the move will help the company further develop its brand in overseas markets.
    The company is only interested in joining forces with a major player, and sources with Sedrin confirmed that potential investors would need to have total assets of at least 7 billion yuan (US$863 million) and annual sales revenue over 40 billion yuan (US$4.9 billion).
    Sedrin, located in Putian on the eastern coast of Fujian, has witnessed rapid development since its establishment in 1986.
In 2004, the company produced more than 720,000 tons of beer, making it the No 1 brewer in Fujian Province.
    The launch of Fujian Sedrin (Sanmin) Co Ltd in May 2003 marked the group's first merger and acquisition activity, while another landmark was reached last year with the opening of Sedrin (Nanchang) Co Ltd, the group's first plant located outside Fujian province.
    The latter move was seen as key in establishing the company in Central China beer markets as well as the nation as a whole.
Through the co-operation with foreign brewers, Sedrin is expected to maintain its rate of development in the years to come.
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Editorial Department of International Investment Express for the ninth China International Fair for Investment and Trade
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