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June 30, 2017

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Talks over cross-strait trade in goods pact to start this month: vice minister

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Vice Economics Minister Cho Shih-chao (卓士昭) said yesterday that representatives from both sides of the strait have decided to begin negotiations over the cross-strait trade in goods pact by the end of August.

The vice minister made the remarks after the sixth biannual Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee meeting in Beijing.

Cho explained that the decision was made in light of the fact that the free trade agreement between mainland China and South Korea is slated to be completed by year-end.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Vice Chairman Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said that discussions over a procedural mechanism for the signing of cross-strait agreements in Taiwan will not affect the trade in goods pact's progress.

Cross-strait economic cooperation has entered a critical phase, Chang said, expressing the hope that negotiations over the trade in goods pact and the agreement on dispute settlement can be completed soon, in order to maximize the effects of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and to create a better environment for trade and commerce between the two sides of the strait.

With regard to the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, Chang said, "We will do our best to get it to take effect within the shortest amount of time."

Expediting the trade in goods pact will not only help the trade in services pact take effect sooner in Taiwan, it will also benefit the bigger economic picture for Taiwan and mainland China, Chang said.

ARATS Remarks

Chang's counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Vice President Zheng Lizhong (鄭立中), said that both sides have achieved progress over the trade in goods pact but there are substantial differences of opinion.

In terms of how to get the trade in services pact to take effect in Taiwan, how to conduct talks over the trade in goods pact, and how to push cross-strait economic cooperation forward, Zheng proposed four principles, namely to maintain the "authority" of ARATS and the SEF in their authorized capacities to sign agreements, to push for progress over the institutionalization of cross-strait economic cooperation, to speed up ECFA follow-up talks, and to allow the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee to come up with a blueprint for future directions of economic cooperation.

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