Beijing and Taipei set to agree on service trade pact

Taiwan and the mainland are expected to sign a service trade pact during a new round of talks later this month, which could help spur mainland investment on the island.

“Senior negotiators from the two sides will discuss, in a preparatory meeting in Taipei on Friday, details concerning the 9th cross-strait talks,” a spokesman for Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation said. The 9th round talks would see SEF chairman Lin Join-sane negotiate with mainland counterpart Chen Deming , the head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, for the first time since he succeeded Chiang Pin-kung in September and Chen Deming succeeded Chen Yunlin in April, he said.

SEF and Arats, set up in early 1990s, represent their respective governments in talks in the absence of formal ties. But the two bodies were only able to achieve results in their talks after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008 and adopted a policy of engagement with Beijing, which has led to the holding of eight rounds of talks and the signing of 18 non-political agreements. The official said Arats deputy chairman Zheng Lizhong would lead a delegation to Taipei on Friday for discussions with Taiwanese counterpart Kao Koong-lian in preparation for the ninth round of talks. Zheng was scheduled to return to Beijing on Saturday, he added. The official said talks would be held before the end of this month, but he stopped short of revealing the likely venue and exact date. Taiwanese media, quoting unnamed government sources, said it would be held in Shanghai or Nanjing in the third or fourth week of June.

“The focus this time will be on the signing of the service trade agreement, which the two sides have been negotiating through more than 10 meetings since February 2011,” the spokesman said. He said Zheng and Kao would discuss the text of the proposed agreement, which would be signed by Lin and Chen Deming “if things all go smoothly”. He said negotiators would touch on the issue of establishing representative offices on opposite sides of the strait, but no agreement would be reached in the talks. The proposed service trade pact is a major follow-up to the landmark Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement – a semi-free-trade pact – signed by the two sides in 2010.

Wang Yu-chi, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top cross-strait policy planning body, told a news conference on May 27 the agreement would also help Taiwan send a strong message to the world that it was committed to pursuing further trade liberalisation.

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