Beijing has shown a willingness to allow Taipei a bigger role on the regional economic stage in a further sign of warming cross-strait relations.
A mainland spokesman described the latest position as a goodwill gesture from President Xi Jinping during his meeting with former Taiwanese vice-president Vincent Siew Wan-chang yesterday on the sidelines of the 2013 Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province.
"Considering Taiwan's need for economic development, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can discuss practically, at an appropriate time, the proper way to connect [both sides] for regional economic co-operation," Yang Yi , spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said yesterday.
"This is an olive branch extended by the mainland," Yang was quoted as saying in Boao by Taiwan's Central News Agency after a 50-minute meeting between Xi and Siew described as amiable and harmonious.
In his meeting with Xi, Siew expressed Taiwan's desire to participate in regional economic integration, saying such participation would be an asset to the region rather than a liability, said Taiwan's Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, of which Siew is the founder and honorary chairman.
Siew called for "communication and negotiation between the two sides so that they can concretely make reasonable arrangements" for such integration, the foundation said.
According to Yang, Xi thanked Siew for his long-standing efforts to promote cross-strait economic co-operation, saying Siew's proposal for a cross-strait common market over a decade ago was noteworthy foresight.
Xi also called for the deepening of cross-strait economic ties, including offering Taiwanese businesses equal treatment to mainland businesses and strengthening co-ordination in high-level economic dialogue, including those at the level of the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed by both sides in 2010, Yang said.
Xi said Beijing would accelerate follow-up talks under that agreement, and hopefully find ways to resolve disputes over the signing of a services co-operation pact in line with ECFA by the end of this year. He urged both sides to co-operate in the "grand engineering of the Chinese renaissance" so that all Chinese could be proud, Yang said.
Siew called for further co-operation to tackle new challenges, including those from global economic restructuring, rapid regional economic integration, and obstacles that hinder cross-strait co-operation.
The Taiwanese media said Siew was given the "highest level of reception" by the mainland at the Boao forum. He was also invited to a VIP lunch that Xi hosted on Sunday, during which Xi introduced him to foreign dignitaries as his "old friend" and Siew sat at a table close to Xi.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou praised Siew yesterday for helping to express Taiwan's hope for the signing of the services co-operation pact in line with ECFA as soon as possible.