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MAC confirms delays to cross-strait investment protection pact talks

TAIPEI -- Negotiations between Taiwan and China on an investment protection agreement have been postponed due to differences over crucial details, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday.

The eighth round of institutionalized talks between Taiwan and China will not be held in June as scheduled because the two sides have not yet hammered out the details of how to implement the investment protection pact, the council said.

The council declined to reveal the thorny issues that have caused the deadlock, but there have been reports that they have to do with Taiwan's request for more comprehensive safety protections for its businesspeople and an international arbitration mechanism to handle disputes.

Enforcement of the investment agreement would require an amendment to China's domestic laws, which could take some time for both sides to “digest,” Premier Sean Chen said Wednesday.

Although both sides have agreed to establish a 24-hour notification system in case of arrests of Taiwanese investors in China, according to China's criminal procedure law, exemptions do exist when the crime is deemed to be related to national security or terrorist acts.

In addition, Taiwan's push for an international arbitration mechanism could hit a snag because China fears such a mechanism would tacitly acknowledge Taiwan's sovereignty.

However, deputy head of the MAC Liu Te-shun said the two sides will try to hold the next meeting as soon as possible because there is some common ground.

“The meeting will not be postponed indefinitely,” Liu said.

He also said the council is not considering decoupling the investment agreement and a customs cooperation pact to speed up the negotiations.

The council announced last week that Taiwan and China were in the final stages of negotiating the customs pact, which is expected to expedite customs clearance in trade between the two sides.

The negotiations are scheduled to be led by Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and Chen Yunlin, president of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.

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