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Taiwan Lifts Ban on Banking Investments in China


In a historic move, Taiwan has allowed its banks to invest in China. And a new survey says expatriate business leaders consider the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and China Asia's most corrupt economies. Claudia Blume in Hong Kong has more on these and other business stories from the region.

Taiwan said it will allow its banks to buy stakes in Chinese lenders, by going through subsidiaries in Hong Kong. Since Taiwan split from China after a civil war ended in 1949, banks from both sides have been barred from direct contact.

China has long been the favorite investment destination for other Taiwan companies, however. In the past 20 years, they pumped about $100 billion into the mainland economy. The relaxation of the banking controls will not only allow Taiwan's financial firms to expand to the fast-growing Chinese market, but also serve the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese who work and live in China.

Foreign businesspeople perceive the Philippines to be the most corrupt economy in Asia, according to a survey by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, or PERC, in Hong Kong. Corruption also is considered to be rampant in Thailand, Indonesia and China, while Hong Kong and Singapore retain their ranking as the region's cleanest economies.

Robert Broadfoot is PERC's managing director. He says corruption does not stop foreign companies from investing in a country - as long as they can make a profit.

"If you are looking at India, Vietnam, China, all of these countries have big problems with corruption but they are also getting large and growing amounts of foreign direct investment. I think because the economies have been growing fast, they recognize there is large domestic populations, and the corruption that exists - although it's a cost, companies don't have to be corrupt to participated in these environments," said Broadfoot. "It complicates things to get around it, but the opportunities are so large that they got to go in."

China's industrial output at the beginning of the year grew at the slowest pace in more than one year, rising just over 15 percent in January and February. The slowdown was mainly caused by severe snow storms, which forced factories to close and disrupted supply chains. It also reflected weaker exports, due to lower demand from the United States.

U.S. oil company Chevron will develop a liquefied natural gas project on a field it owns in Australia. The company says the facility at the Wheatstone field on the northwestern Australian coast will have an initial capacity of at least five million tons a year.