Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah touted a newly signed cross-strait services trade agreement as signaling the dawn of “an era of full-scale economic exchange and cooperation” between Taiwan and mainland China. He made the remarks during a briefing on the outcomes of the ninth-round cross-strait talks held in Shanghai between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.
After being presented with a signed copy of the agreement by Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi and SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane, Premier Jiang commended the agencies present at the talks for successfully concluding the accord as well as for forging a consensus on importing water from mainland China to the Kinmen islands.
The trade in services agreement—a major follow-up pact to the 2010 Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA)—will serve as a model for other follow-up negotiations on dispute settlement and trade in goods with the mainland, said Premier Jiang. It is the first free-trade agreement (FTA) concluded by the two sides based on the ECFA and the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services.
“In addition to creating niches for Taiwan’s businesses and enhancing national competitiveness, the services trade agreement will help Taiwan secure FTAs with other countries and further our integration into the regional economy,” he added.
The public is keeping a close eye on the pact’s benefits and potential impact on the local services sector, noted the premier. Attentive to the criticism and skepticism raised by some businesses and experts, the Executive Yuan has instructed the Ministry of Economic Affairs and other agencies to set up a mechanism to coordinate the resolution of problems, conduct impact assessment on Taiwan’s industries and work out complementary response measures. Communication will also be strengthened to clear up any misconceptions the public may have so that they can better understand the positive effects to be brought by the agreement.
Other major topics to be negotiated with the mainland include avoidance of double taxation, post-ECFA trade in goods and dispute resolution, reciprocal cross-strait representative offices, and meteorological and earthquake cooperation. All of these issues touch on people’s rights and cross-strait ties, the premier said. The MAC will coordinate with other agencies to position and negotiate the best possible terms for Taiwan.
The 19 cross-strait agreements produced in nine rounds of talks over the past five years have been essential to building co-prosperity, mutual trust and peaceful relations. It is important to implement these agreements step by step in order to normalize exchanges and guard the rights of people on both sides, he added.
The premier emphasized that concluding an agreement is only the first step and that people are more concerned with enforcement action. At present, mainland China still has room for improvement in implementing various provisions such as permitting mainland tourists to transit via Taiwan to another country, extraditing financial criminals, protecting the rights of Taiwanese detainees and obtaining compensation from tainted food manufacturers. Jiang asked the MAC, SEF and other agencies work more closely with mainland authorities to review the accords and expand enforcement of the terms.
In previous rounds of talks, the task of negotiating the demands and interests of two sides has not been easy, and the challenge will only grow with the complexity of future topics to be negotiated, Jiang said. He added that President Ma Ying-jeou’s principle of “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people” and the “Golden Decade” national vision for cross-strait peace should serve as guideposts for ministries and departments as they continue to promote institutionalized negotiations and lay the foundations for peaceful relations.