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Chiang-Chen meeting to herald start of ECFA talks

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The pace for the negotiations on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) across the Taiwan Strait will accelerate after the two sides formally inked the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in financial supervision and two-way investments on Monday.

Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said yesterday the upcoming meeting between the chief negotiators of Taiwan and China next month will herald the beginning of formal ECFA talks while Premier Wu Den-yi said it would be a suitable occasion to sign the ECFA pact during the fifth round of cross-strait negotiations.

The proposed signing of the ECFA will be a topic of dialogue when P.K. Chiang, chairman of the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation, and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits President Chen Yunlin, meet on Dec. 21 in Taichung for the fourth round of talks, Shih said.

He said Taiwan expects the agreement to be signed some time in 2010, and “the sooner the better.”

According to Ministry of Economic Affairs officials, the government hopes that formal ECFA negotiations can kick off by January 2010, when representatives of the two sides will exchange lists of products to be covered by an early harvest program under the trade deal.

When answering questions raised by reporters, Premier Wu said when the negotiators will certainly exchange views on new agenda when they wrap up the fourth round of talks.

Wu pointed out that the fifth round would be an ideal occasion to clench the deals and sing a formal agreement.

But the premier also reiterated the three major criteria for signing the landmark ECFA agreement: meeting the nation's needs, winning the support of the public, and proceeding under the supervision of the legislature.

Legislators on Finance Committee of the Legislative Yuan's have recently passed a resolution barring Chinese banks from entering Taiwan before Taipei and Beijing seal the ECFA agreement, a cross-strait version of free trade pact which will pave the way for Taiwan's reaching free trade agreements with its other key trading partners.

Separately, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Hsing-yuan paid a visit yesterday to Jason Hu, mayor of Taichung City, the venue for the forthcoming Chiang-Chen meeting next month, as part of preparations for a smooth proceeding of the meeting.

Organizations promoting Taiwan independence staged a protest calling on Hu and Lai, a former legislator of the Taiwan Solidarity Union that backs the independence movement, not to sell out Taiwan through building closer relations with China.

They plan even bigger demonstrations when the meeting takes place next month.

In response, Hu expressed the hope that the meeting will bring better business to Taichung, although peaceful protests will be tolerated.

Lai said the meeting will help promote the visibility and interest in Taichung, the host city, for tourism and business.

The Chinese delegation that attended a previous round of talks in Taipei was met with violent protests organized by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

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 Chiang-Chen meeting to herald start of ECFA talks 
Under heavy protection, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Hsing-yuan makes her way through a crowd of protesters who advocate Taiwan independence and oppose negotiations with China. Lai yesterday visited Mayor Jason Hu of Taichung City, the venue for the forthcoming cross-strait talks next month. (CNA)



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