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Backgrounder: ECFA, a cross-Strait economic pact

06-29-2010 15:35 BJT

CHONGQING, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a wide-ranging economic pact between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, is expected to be signed at Tuesday's talks between Chen Yunlin, president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), and Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

The agreement aims at institutionalizing economic cooperation across the Taiwan Strait and facilitating and regularizing economic and trade exchanges.

It is believed to be conducive to promoting the common economic development and well-being of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The idea of a cross-Strait economic pact dates back to April 2005 when Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and Lien Chan, then chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) Party in Taiwan, jointly issued in Beijing the "common aspiration and prospects for cross-Strait peace and development."

In the document, the two parties proposed to jointly promote all-round economic exchanges between the mainland and Taiwan and establish a cross-Strait economic cooperation mechanism.

Since then, people on both sides have called for a formal agreement to set up the mechanism and regularize economic relations.

On Dec. 31, 2008, Hu Jintao delivered a speech at a meeting in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan." He put it clearly in the speech that the mainland and Taiwan could sign a "comprehensive economic cooperation agreement" and build a unique mechanism to achieve mutual benefit.

To advance the process, academic institutions across the Strait have conducted independent and joint research, which concluded that signing the ECFA would positively affect trade and economic growth from a long-term point of view.

They also agreed that negotiations on the agreement should follow a principle of tackling easy topics first and moving ahead piecemeal.

In December 2009, leaders of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the island's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) held their fourth round of talks in Taichung,Taiwan, and exchanged opinions on negotiating and signing the ECFA. They also agreed to focus on the topic in their fifth round of talks this year.

On Jan. 26, 2010, experts from the mainland and Taiwan held the first round of talks on the ECFA in Beijing. The two sides exchanged ideas and reached consensus on topics including the name and basic structure of the agreement, and setting up a negotiation mechanism.

They agreed that the basic content of the ECFA would cover major economic activities across the Strait, including market access for commodity trade and service trade, rules of origin, the early harvest program, trade remedy, dispute settlement, investment and economic cooperation.

They also agreed to further negotiate the agreement topic by topic and follow a principle of "easy things first, seeking common ground while reserving differences, proceeding in an orderly way and step by step, and advancing actively but reliably."

Experts held the second round of talks two months later in Tashi, Taoyuan County, Taiwan. It was agreed at the talks that both sides' most urgent and necessary issues should be considered when deciding what products and services are to be included in the early harvest program.

The mainland vowed not to press Taiwan to lift trade barriers against imports of farm produce nor require the island to open its labor market.

During their third round of talks in June, experts from the two sides discussed the main content of the ECFA, and commodity and service trade in its "early harvest program."

The two sides had exchanged opinions on the ECFA's 16-article text and agreed to gradually reduce and abolish barriers to trade and investment across the Strait based on the principle of equality and mutual benefit.

On June 24, the two sides completed the final details of the pact at a preparatory consultation in Taipei.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: Xinhua

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