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Indonesia to set up Morotai economic zone: envoy

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Indonesian government on Tuesday approved a plan to establish a special economic zone at its northernmost island of Morotai as part of Taiwan-Indonesia joint development project, Taiwan's top envoy to Indonesia said yesterday.

“The latest announcement to establish the zone at Morotai is expected to enhance economic ties between Taiwan and Indonesia,” Chang Liang-jen (張良任), Taiwan's representative to Indonesia, told local reporters yesterday in Taipei.

The Indonesian government is scheduled to launch a series of preferential measures to attract Taiwanese investment in the special economic zone at Morotai in different areas such as fisheries and tourism industries, Chang noted.

Taiwan and Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012 covering the joint development of Morotai, the largest island of the resource-rich Maluku archipelago in eastern Indonesia.

The two sides announced last August that the government-funded Taiwan's International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF) and Indonesian Jacabaka company would be the respective agencies that will be assigned to the joint development project in Morotai.

The island, located 2,600 kilometers from Taiwan, has a population of some 50,000 and an area of about 2,400 square kilometers.

The Indonesian government believes the island, which was the scene of heavy fighting during World War II, has the potential to become a major tourist attraction thanks to its abundant fishery resources and scenic landscapes.

Chang made the comments during a press event with local reporters in Taipei yesterday.

The envoy returned to Taiwan Sunday to attend a four-day seminar jointly organized by the Foreign Ministry and the Economic Ministry, as part of the country's preparations for entering negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), two proposed trade blocs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Seminar Helpful: Envoy

Asked to comment, Chang said the seminar that began Monday runs until tomorrow is an opportunity to share experiences with representatives posted in other countries and to brainstorm and come up with strategies and roadmaps to seek support abroad for Taiwan's bids to join the two regional trade blocs.

Indonesia is extremely supportive of Taiwan's bid to join regional economic integration, Chang said, adding that both sides have been discussing the possibility of signing a bilateral investment agreement to advance trade relations.

But it could take some time for further development because the Indonesian government is scheduled to hold two national elections this year, with legislative elections slated for April and the presidential election to be held on July, he added.

Speaking during the same event, Katherine Chang (張小月), the nation's top envoy to Australia, said Taiwan continues to seek Australia's support for its TPP and RCEP bids.

Since Taiwan is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Chang said Australia is likely to welcome and support the nation's bid to join the TPP.

The main challenge is that Taiwan needs to prepare itself to meet all kinds of standards and qualifications required for the TPP first, she added.

Meanwhile, the homecoming envoys have concluded their trainings at the seminars yesterday and headed to Central and Southern Taiwan for the remainder of their tasks.

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This picture showed that Morotai, one of Indonesia's Northern islands, still keeps many traditional houses nowadays which also indicates the simple life and attitude of people who live on this island. (CNA)

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