|China, Taiwan open talks on economic cooperation|
|Written by public relations Dept./Gh|
|Sunday, 26 April 2009 08:43|
BEIJING (AP) -- Envoys from rivals China and Taiwan began talks Saturday on a trade agreement and prepared to sign pacts to increase economic cooperation amid efforts by Taiwan's president to improve relations with Beijing.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is pushing for an agreement to ease trade barriers, which he says is needed to keep Taiwan competitive.
The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, expected to be signed during the talks in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, would permit the free flow of many goods, services and capital. In a concession to Taiwanese farmers, agricultural produce would be exempt.
The first round of talks involved the bodies that handle relations between the two sides, according to a spokeswoman for the Taiwanese body, the Straits Exchange Foundation. She spoke on condition she not be identified by name, in line with the organization's rules.
Mid-level officials were meeting Saturday and their leaders were to meet Sunday. Nanjing was the Chinese capital before the 1949 communist revolution and is symbolic in China-Taiwan relations.
Taiwan and the mainland split in 1949 and have no formal ties, but investment and indirect trade have flourished since Taiwan eased its ban on contacts with China in the 1990s.
Taiwanese companies have invested more than $100 billion in the mainland and business leaders complain they are hurt by restrictions on finance and trade.
Agreements due to be signed this weekend would increase the frequency of direct flights between the two sides, according to Chiang Pin-kung, the Straits Exchange Foundation president and Taiwan's top envoy to the talks.
Taiwan limits direct travel and shipping links for fear of domination by its giant neighbor. Beijing claims the democratic island as part of its territory and has threatened repeatedly to invade if it tries to make its de facto independence permanent or delays talks on uniting the two sides.
The mainland is represented by the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.
Other agreements to be signed would allow mainland investment in Taiwan, permit cooperation in criminal investigations and allow banks to open branches in each other's territory, according to Chiang.
Taiwanese officials say any investment agreement is likely to bar Chinese access to sectors deemed critical to the island's security.
The talks are the third round of high-level negotiations between China and Taiwan since Ma took office last May. In the earlier rounds, they agreed to begin daily charter flights and direct sea and postal service and to increase the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan.
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