Island threatens legal action if non-government officials make deal on fruit trade Taipei yesterday threatened to take legal action against farm association officials - who are on a low-profile visit to Beijing - if they reach or sign any deals on the cross-strait fruit trade with the mainland. The three members of the non-governmental group, the Taiwan Provincial Farmers Association, travelled to Beijing on Wednesday for talks with the mainland. Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) spokesman You Ying-lung said Taipei had planned to assign the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, a semi-official agency, to represent Taipei in the talks. 'If they [the association officials] merely go there to exchange views or promote exchanges, the government will not object, but if they are there to talk about anything that falls within the government's purview, they will have to face legal consequences,' Mr You said. He said the MAC had clearly stated that the Taiwanese authorities would form a team for talks on the fruit trade and would ask the trade development council to co-ordinate negotiations with the mainland side. 'The Taiwan Provincial Farmers Association has not been authorised by the government to talk with [mainland] China.' The farmers' delegation is scheduled to meet members of Beijing's Association for Economic and Trade Exchange Across the Taiwan Strait to discuss technical aspects of the fruit trade. Taiwanese media reports said mainland officials had told the island's farmers they would spare no effort to work with the association to import 15 kinds of Taiwanese fruit under the zero-tariff regime. Beijing's zero-tariff offer was made during a landmark visit by opposition Kuomintang leader Lien Chan in early May. Beijing has said it prefers to talk with officials from the farmers' association rather than those from the trade development council as it considers Taiwanese fruit imports to be cross-strait rather than external trade. Taiwanese media and observers said President Chen Shui-bian's administration had been trying hard to regain the initiative in handling cross-strait relations since the opposition's visits to the mainland last month. They said Mr Lien and his People First Party counterpart, James Soong Chu-yu, had successfully established themselves as key cross-strait mediators during their mainland tours. This explained why the Chen government was insisting that the semi-official trade development council represent the government in talks with the mainland, they said. KMT spokesman Chang Jung-kung criticised the government yesterday for threatening civilians with legal action, saying it was acting unreasonably by trying block farmers' efforts to sell fruit to the mainland just because Mr Lien had opened the market.