Many issues remain to be settled concerning cross-strait goods pact

By John Liu, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — While the cross-strait service trade agreement awaited deliberation in the Legislature, Economic Affairs Minister Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) commented on the cross-strait goods trade agreement yesterday.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs set a goal of finishing negotiations with mainland China on the goods trade agreement in 2014. Asked by the press if a draft of the goods trade agreement would be concluded with the mainland Chinese government by year-end, Chang said that he would try his best to make it happen, but indicated that there are still many issues to be resolved. The goods trade agreement covers a wide range of topics, and as many as 8,000 separate items need to be reviewed, some of which are currently undergoing examination.

Although only the transfer of goods and not personnel is involved in the goods trade agreement, Chang said that he still believes some people will be affected by the new agreement, which would become a major concern for some. However, without the goods trade agreement, tariffs are levied on goods traded across the strait, Chang pointed out. Since mainland China is expected to sign free trade agreements with the U.S., Japan, South Korea and ASEAN-6 countries in the future, Taiwan’s export sector is likely to be hurt as a result, making it all the more essential to signing the goods agreement, Chang said. A number of local businesses in Taiwan are interested in expanding into the mainland Chinese market. But existing tariffs are likely to restrict Taiwan’s exports, Chang said. Chang stressed that establishing normal trade relations with China would aid Taiwan in creating sound trade and economic relations with other countries. A system or agreement recognized by both sides would help protect the interests of investors and businesses conducting trade, Chang added. Service Trade Agreement While deliberations on the service trade agreement were delayed in the Legislative Yuan, President Ma Ying-jeou said on Wednesday that he hoped all public hearings would be completed in three weeks. Chang said that the MOEA would try to improve its communication with both the ruling and opposition parties in the Legislature and provide information when needed. As 10 out of 16 public hearing sessions have been completed, most of the issues have been discussed, Chang said, adding that upon completion of the hearings, political negotiations would be the only remaining step toward sealing a deal. Chang said that the MOEA has explained the government’s plan of providing assistance or compensation to parties that may be affected as a result of the signing of the service trade agreement.