Premier Wen Jiabao told Taiwan's small businesses and farmers they have nothing to fear about a cross-strait free trade deal currently being discussed by Beijing and Taipei. Speaking at the annual news conference at the NPC, Wen said Beijing would take these people's interests to heart when proposing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) to Taipei. He said the free trade pact would not result in cheap mainland imports flooding Taiwan's market. 'I believe that in negotiating this agreement, we need to consider the size of the economy and trade conditions as well as the interests of both sides,' Wen said. 'We need to keep in mind Taiwan's small businesses and ordinary people, and the interests of farmers in Taiwan.' 'We will let the people of Taiwan benefit from tariff conditions and early harvest programmes,' Wen added. 'Relevant arrangements will also be made to help reassure farmers in Taiwan,' he said. His speech was to dissipate fears from Taiwan's powerful farming groups over the proposed deal. Taiwanese farmers have become the island's key force in opposing a free trade pact with the mainland, saying they are worried that such a deal could bring a flood of cheap mainland agriculture products to the otherwise insulated domestic market. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party has been playing this worry to their favour and used it to criticise Taiwanese President and Kuomintang leader Ma Ying-jeou, who prefers to engage rather than antagonise Beijing. Over the past weeks, the KMT and the DPP had exchanged sharp words over the ECFA deal. Wen was eager to drive away these worries. He said that the mainland government was ready to 'make concessions', such as giving more tax and tariff reductions so that Taiwan's small businesses and farming community could benefit. 'It is because we are brothers,' he said. 'Negotiations are always complex but differences between two brothers should not affect blood ties.' Dr Lai Shin-yuan chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees cross-strait policy in Taiwan, immediately responded to Wen's speech yesterday, saying that she is 'optimistic' about the trade agreement. 'We are glad that the mainland side has taken notice of our special relations and the big economic disparities between the mainland and Taiwan,' she told China News Service. 'It would help advance the cross-strait economic and trade exchanges.' Liu Guoshen, the head of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said Wen's speech was also meant for the mainland audience. Some mainlanders felt Beijing had made too many concessions in the trade talk with Taiwan. 'Many are not happy with Wen's promises, particularly over small businesses and agriculture. Some have chosen to vent their anger over the internet,' Liu said. 'Wen needs to remind these people: taking care of Taiwan compatriots is a serious matter. And we, Chinese, value our blood tie.' Zhang Tongxin, honorary director of Renmin University's Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Research Centre, said Wen also wanted to use the opportunity to rebuff the DPP's accusation that the mainland was seeking to 'buy out' Taiwan.