Taiwan's top envoy to the mainland arrived in Nanjing yesterday, kicking off two days of high-level talks on cross-strait crime prevention, financial services and the introduction of scheduled direct flights. 'Since the Kuomintang returned to power last year, cross-straits relations have improved at a great speed,' Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Chiang Pin-kung said yesterday, as he was welcomed at the venue for the talks by his mainland counterpart, Chen Yunlin. 'I believe that this third round of negotiations will be a step forward in broadening the normalisation of economic relations across the strait.' Mr Chiang was due this morning to sign formal agreements with Mr Chen, chief of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. Both officials made a brief statement but did not answer reporters' questions. Mr Chen said the financial crisis was placing both the mainland and Taiwanese economies under considerable strain, but that adversity should bring the two sides closer. 'In times of difficulties, comrades on either side of the strait ought even more to understand and support one another, [have] common goals in a common world,' he said. The two teams are meeting in the Purple Palace holiday resort, on the northern edge of the green rolling hills that house the vast memorial hall and tomb of Sun Yat-sen, the only Chinese political leader to be revered on both sides of the strait. This round of talks is aimed at setting up a cross-strait financial framework that would allow Taiwanese banks more access to the mainland market. They are also expected to issue a joint statement on mainland investment in the island. The agreement will also establish a currency clearance system. The crime pact is likely to focus initially on the repatriation of people who have committed economicrelated offences. Daily chartered flights between Taipei and Beijing began in December, but the new pact will allow scheduled services and is expected to expand the number of flights from 108 to about 200. Kao Koong-lian, deputy chairman of the Taiwanese foundation, said he did not expect any holdups to the negotiations. 'The majority of problems have already been largely resolved,' Mr Kao said, referring to several rounds of informal talks which have taken place since the last meeting in Taipei in November. Last weekend, Premier Wen Jiabao met envoy Fredrick Chien Fu on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan. Before leaving Taiwan, Mr Chiang was instructed by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to discuss the proposed Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, but no pact would be signed. Cross-strait negotiations had come to a standstill during the eight-year presidency of Chen Shui-bian, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, but have been progressing at an unprecedented rate since Mr Ma came to office in May. After the talks, Mr Chiang's delegation is to tour Taiwanese businesses near Nanjing, Kunshan and Shanghai before returning to Taipei.