Beijing and Taipei sign pact to open up trade in services
Pact signed by Beijing and Taipei will open up sectors from publishing and travel to barber shops and herbal medicine
Taiwan and the mainland signed a services trade pact in Shanghai yesterday to strengthen cross-strait economic ties.
The pact was signed by the chairman of Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), Lin Join-sane, and the president of Beijing's Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (Arats), Chen Deming , in their first talks as heads of the two bodies. Lin became SEF head in September and Chen was appointed Arats head in April.
Under the services trade agreement, Beijing will open up 80 service industry sectors, including wholesaling, e-commerce, finance, publishing and travel services to Taiwanese investment, a statement released by SEF said.
In return, Taipei agreed to open up 64 services sectors, including transport, care centres, Chinese herbal medicine, barber shops and travel services to mainland investors, SEF said.
"The pact is a follow-up to the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement signed by our two sides, and is in line with the spirit of the World Trade Organisation," SEF quoted Lin as saying during his talks with Chen.
It was the 9th round of talks between the SEF and Arats, which were set up in the 1990s to represent the two sides in talks in the absence of formal ties. The talks were made possible after the mainland-friendly Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwanese president in 2008 and adopted a policy of engagement towards Beijing. Since 2008, the two bodies have signed 19 non-political agreements, including the services trade pact signed yesterday.
Besides the trade pact, Lin and Chen also discussed the possibility of supplying water from Xiamen to Quemoy, a nearby island held by Taiwan, SEF said. They also agreed to hold a meeting later this year to review how well previous agreements signed between the two sides had been carried out.
The Taipei-based Central News Agency said Chen told Lin that in signing the agreement, the mainland was willing to take into account the disparity between the two sides' economies and market sizes as well as the difficulties facing Taiwan's people. That was why the mainland agreed to open up 80 of its service categories to Taiwanese investment compared with the 64 to be opened up by Taiwan.
"The number of sectors opened and the scope of the access allowed has never been seen before in any similar agreement Beijing has signed," Chen said.
Taiwan's pro-independence camp heaped scorn on the pact, saying it would only undermine the local job market for 4.7 million Taiwanese workers. "The Ma government has never talked to local businesses about the potential impact of the pact and has been avoiding questions on the issue," said Pan Men-an, a legislator from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party.