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New Policy on Cross-Straits Air Cargo Expected

Pu Zhaozhou, director of the Office of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), told China Daily on Tuesday that the mainland is willing to take practical steps to facilitate early implementation of direct air links with Taiwan, including cargo charter services.

The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council is expected to announce a new policy about cross-Straits cargo charter flights at its regular press conference on Friday, according to Pu. The move is a major effort to push for direct air links with Taiwan.

The announcement comes on the heels of the successful nonstop cross-Straits passenger charter flights operated during the recent Lunar New Year holidays.

Pu said that officials would elaborate on the policy and their positions regarding it at the press conference.

Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian offered to discuss the issue of charter flights with the mainland government last Wednesday.

Before meeting with representatives of Taiwan airlines at a Lunar New Year party held in Beijing Tuesday night, Pu said the proposed cross-Straits cargo charter arrangement is set to be a main topic.

"Of course we will exchange views with each other on the issue, but it is not a formal discussion," he said.

Senior executives of airlines from the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao attend the annual party, which is hosted by the CAAC.

Representatives from six Taiwan airlines attended yesterday's event, which was closed to the media.

Lo Ta-hsin, chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association, was also present. He reached an agreement in January with Pu on this year's nonstop cross-Straits charter flight program.

"The passenger charters just concluded at the Lunar New Year holiday provided a sound basis for the future cargo charter flights across the Taiwan Straits," Lo told reporters before the party. But he refused to give a timetable for the business to begin, saying he has not been authorized to start talks about the issue.

Both the mainland and Taiwan airlines have expressed great interest in the cargo charter business.

Song Chengren, deputy general manager of Xiamen Airlines, said his company is eager to make the charter flights regular since there are vast business opportunities between the two sides.

Xiamen Airlines is based in Fujian Province, just across the Taiwan Straits from the island province. Only 30 to 40 minutes are needed for direct flights from the city of Xiamen.

"We have been preparing the cargo charters since 1990," Song said.

Stephen Tsuei, chairman of the Far Eastern Air Transport Corp. in Taiwan, said, "Both the mainland and Taiwanese airlines desire the cargo charters, which can be turned into a reality technically since a good pattern has been established."

The cargo charter business can help reduce the operating costs of airlines and helps to improve competition, he added.

(China Daily February 23, 2005)

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