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June 27, 2017

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Ma asks Japan to review tourist imbalance

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday told a Japanese envoy that the Asian country should review the imbalance of tourist flow between the two nations.

Ma made his comment at his meeting with the new director of the Interchange Association, Japan, Taipei Office (IAJ, 日本交流協會臺北事務所) Mikio Numata.

Numata assumed his post as the new IAJ director on July 22 and reportedly was selected as envoy for his fluency in Mandarin and in-depth knowledge of Chinese culture. Numata is also said to be an expert in Taiwanese and cross-strait politics.

During the meeting, Ma discussed the tourist population imbalance with Numata. Tourism population flow has reached a record high since the working holiday and Opening Skies Agreement was established, the president said, leading to the possibility of Taiwan becoming the biggest source of tourists visiting Japan, exceeding even that of South Korea.

Though tourists to both countries were estimated to have hit 4 million this year, tourists from Taiwan to Japan in the first six months of 2014 have been calculated to reach 1.46 million people, while Japanese tourists to Taiwan have only been calculated to reach 780,000, prompting Ma to address Numata to review the population imbalance.

Ma had previously made similar statements during the diplomatic visit of a Japanese delegation led by former Deputy Minister Okada Katsuya. The president was quoted to have said that Taiwanese tourists visiting Japan greatly exceed that of Japan to Taiwan, and that Japan should take measures to rebalance the difference.

Though Japan and Taiwan have no official diplomatic relations, Ma said, he has nevertheless positioned the relationship between Taiwan and Japan as a special partnership since assuming office as president. Japan is also the second largest trading partner for Taiwan, while Taiwan is the fourth for Japan, with over US$60 billion worth of trade volume between the two nations. Cultural, historical and humanities exchanges on many levels have also been conducted frequently between the two nations, creating a special bond that is understood mutually.

During the meeting, Ma also stated that the signing of the Taiwan-Japan fishery pact (臺日漁業協議) was a historical milestone for the neighboring nations. Since the agreement, conflicts between fishermen from both countries has gone down from over 10 cases annually to just one case last year. Tensions between sea authorities of both nations have also abated, now becoming what Ma calls a symbol of peace that is good for the international image of both countries.

Last year was also a prosperous year for Taiwan in conducting economic cooperation with various foreign countries, Ma said, with Japanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Kuni Sato publicly welcoming Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Ma stated that there are currently 150 projects being developed under the Taiwan-Japan Industrial Cooperation Bridging Program with NT$22 billion worth of investment. Should the projects prove fruitful, there could be more agreements between the nations to create mutually beneficial programs to boost the economies of respective countries.

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