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Cross-strait service pact may come in June: SEF

TAIPEI -- Taiwan is likely to sign a service trade agreement with mainland China in June, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian said Friday.

The SEF has proposed to its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), that they hold a high-level meeting in June to sign the agreement, Kao said.

The talks will be held between SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane and ARATS President Chen Deming, who serve as the chief cross-strait negotiators on behalf their respective governments.

It will be the ninth high-level cross-strait meeting since 2008 and the first between Lin and Chen since they assumed their current positions in September 2012 and April 2013, respectively.

The service trade pact is a major follow-up to the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010 between the two sides.

Deputy Economics Minister Cho Shih-chao said in late April that Taiwan has obtained “WTO-plus” treatment from China, as the latter has promised to offer Taiwan better concessions than at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

All of the 65 items that China has agreed to liberalize will fall under “WTO-plus” treatment, while 66 percent of the 55 items listed by the Taiwan side for liberalization will be given “WTO-equal or below-WTO” treatment, Cho said.

The main areas of services that China is opening up to Taiwan include e-business, creative culture, sea and air transportation, finance, medical services, telecommunications and travel agencies.

Taiwan on the other hand is mainly opening up its financial, medical care and travel agency services to China, while the telecommunications sector will be partially liberalized.

In an interview published Friday in Taiwan's United Daily News, Chen complained that in the follow-up negotiations to the ECFA, Taiwan did not grant China most-favored nation treatment in many areas, despite the concessions made by Beijing.

In response, Lin said that every agreement signed between the two sides so far has been mutually beneficial and he expressed the hope that the service trade pact will be signed soon.

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