TRADE BRIEFS

TRADE BRIEFS

HONG KONG MAY PURSUE

REFORMS WITHOUT CHINA

HONG KONG - Gov. Chris Patten indicated Monday that Hong Kong's colonial government may pursue democratic reforms without Chinese backing after 17 rounds of near-fruitless talks with Beijing on the issue.

Mr. Patten said that while he still hoped to reach agreement with China on the reforms, the British colonial government had "certain responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong" before returning the territory to China in 1997 after more than 100 years of British rule.

British and Chinese negotiators ended the 17th round of talks in Beijing Saturday on Mr. Patten's proposed electoral reforms for Hong Kong. They apparently were no further along than when the first round began seven months ago.

JAPAN AUTOMAKERS POST

STEEPEST EXPORT DROP

TOKYO - Japan's motor vehicle exports in October posted the worst year- on-year plunge on record, dropping 25.4 percent from a year earlier to 350,559 vehicles, an industry group said Monday.

October exports of cars, trucks and buses were also down 22.6 percent from September, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

Shipments totaled US$6.399 billion in value, down 9.8 percent from a year earlier and 18.0 percent from September, the association said.

TAIWAN TO LIFT BAN

ON CHINESE WORKERS

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan will lift its ban on workers from mainland China in a bid to ease a severe labor shortage, the Cabinet's Mainland Affairs Council said Monday.

Thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants to Taiwan will also be allowed to work on the island while awaiting forced repatriation, the council said.

Details of the policy, such as the number of Chinese workers allowed to enter Taiwan and a date for implementation, have not yet been decided.

Taiwan lifted its ban on the hiring of foreign workers by the private sector in 1991. Taiwanese companies have legally employed about 60,000 so far, most of them from Southeast Asia.

Taiwan's unemployment rate is just 1.58 percent, and business associations estimate that private industry is short tens of thousands of workers.

S. KOREAN PRESIDENT

SILENT ON RICE IMPORTS

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean President Kim Young-sam called on Monday for a new era of open markets and free global trade.

But Mr. Kim, in a speech to Parliament, did not disclose a decision on one of the major obstacles to global economic cooperation, South Korea's stringent ban on rice imports.

Mr. Kim attended the summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Seattle Nov. 18-20. After the summit he held private talks with President Clinton in Washington.

Mr. Kim said there had been no agreement with Mr. Clinton on opening the rice market. Many South Koreans believe Mr. Kim decided to accept imports under certain conditions following his meeting with Mr. Clinton.

HONDA TO SELL CAR PART

TO ITS RIVAL MITSUBISHI

TOKYO - In a sign of the cost-cutting zeal of Japanese automakers, Honda Motor Co. said Monday it will sell a key automotive part for the first time to a rival domestic carmaker, Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Spokesmen for both companies said Honda will sell drive shafts for use in front-wheel-drive cars to Mitsubishi. Specifics of the deal have not been decided, they said.

By producing more drive shafts, Honda will presumably have lower fixed costs per unit. Mitsubishi would benefit by obtaining a part of proven quality more cheaply than it could produce it.

Both companies said it is the first time they have been involved in such a deal with a domestic rival.

SOUTH KOREA TO ADMIT

20,000 GUEST WORKERS

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea bowed to cries for help from struggling small manufacturers and announced it would admit 20,000 foreign workers to fill unskilled low-paying jobs that locals now shun.

A Justice Ministry official said the number would be limited to 20,000 and the workers would be permitted to stay for periods of up to two years. They will be allowed to work for small companies, the official said by telephone.

The ministry also announced it would extend the limited amnesty for illegal guest workers for another six months.