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Cross-strait summit opens to discuss ECFA

TAIPEI -- A meeting of the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee, which coordinates issues related to a framework agreement on trade between Taiwan and China, opened in Taipei yesterday morning.

The one-day meeting is expected to review the progress made on follow-up issues to the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010 and the feasibility of trade groups on the two sides exchanging representative offices.

Kao Koong-lian, Straits Exchange Foundation vice chairman, and Zheng Lizhong, vice president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), are leading the meeting.

The committee was formed under the SEF and ARATS framework on Jan. 2, 2011, and it has met four times since then.

The first meeting identified key issues for follow-up talks in the future, including trade in goods, trade in services, investment and dispute resolution, and set up six working units to deal with them.

One of the issues tracked was the “early harvest” program under the ECFA that took effect in January 2011 and has since eliminated import duties on 539 Taiwanese items exported to China and 267 Chinese items exported to Taiwan.

Taiwanese exporters had saved US$1.26 billion in duties charged by Chinese customs as of October this year, showing that the program has achieved some initial results, Koo said Tuesday morning before the meeting began.

But the program accounts for only a small fraction of trade in goods and services between the two sides, Koo said, and he hoped that a bilateral agreement on trade in services, which was signed in June but has since been stuck in the Legislature, could take effect soon.

The two sides should also complete talks on merchandise trade so that more products can benefit from zero-tariff treatment and the gains from the ECFA can be expanded, he said.

On cross-strait industrial cooperation, Koo suggested that the two sides establish an “industrial supply chain cooperation mechanism,” under which Taiwanese and Chinese companies swap shares or invest in each other to promote equity cooperation.

He noted that the two sides have actively promoted cooperation in several major areas, such as LEDs, wireless cities, low temperature logistics, TFT LCD panels and autos, and the cooperation could be extended to the textile industry.

Zheng said before the meeting that some of the specific issues to be discussed Tuesday were e-commerce and product inspections.

He also pushed for implementing the trade in services pact, describing it as the key to strengthening bilateral economic cooperation at present. He added that the mainland is prepared to deliver on its promises once the deal takes effect.

He also introduced China's vice commerce minister, Kao Yan, who is heading China's delegation at the meeting. He described Kao as having extensive experience on trade issues and some familiarity with Taiwan.

Both Vice Economic Affairs Minister Cho Shih-chao, who is heading Taiwan's delegation, and Kao are scheduled to hold separate news conferences at 5 p.m. to report on the results of the meeting.

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