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China, Taiwan to speed up broad trade pact

China, Taiwan to speed up broad trade pact

BEIJING (Reuters) – China and Taiwan agreed to speed up the process of negotiating a broad free trade-style agreement at preliminary talks this week, a Beijing official said on Wednesday.

Taiwan officials aim to sign the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) to slash tariffs in early 2010, but China has hinted previously it could take longer.

“At talks yesterday, both sides said they wanted to accelerate the process of negotiating and signing the framework agreement,” Yang Yi, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said.

Taiwan hopes the agreement will open the mainland market to its goods and services and lead to closer ties with other Asian countries. Some businessmen, though, worry about a flood of Chinese goods in the relatively small Taiwan market.

Under the pact, tariffs would fall to varying degrees, remaining highest for Taiwan sectors that might lose ground to a greater flow of goods from China.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island. But ties have warmed since 2008 when Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office pushing for closer trade links.

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