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Former commerce chief takes reins at ARATS

By ZHAO YINAN | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-27 01:27

Former commerce minister Chen Deming on Friday assumed the position of top cross-Straits negotiator.

Chen was elected president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, a non-governmental organization entrusted by Chinese mainland authorities to engage in cross-Straits talks.

Experts said that the veteran trade specialist can help implement business deals and boost trade between the mainland and Taiwan.

Chen, 64, worked at the commerce ministry from 2007 until March, after resigning as deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning agency.

Chen, who has a doctorate in management, was faced with a financial crisis when he began his term as commerce chief. He worked to cushion the economic impact of decreasing exports and found ways to increase domestic demand.

Yu Xintian, director of the Shanghai-based Taiwan Research Institute, said it is unusual for a trade official to head the association, which was previously led by Chen Yunlin.

Chen Yunlin had worked as the mainland's top official on Taiwan affairs at the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office for about 15 years before he moved to ARATS in 2008.

"Exchanges between the mainland and Taiwan need more commercial specialists to work out details on economic cooperation and settle possible trade disputes," Yu said.

ARATS had held eight rounds of talks with its island counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation, and has concluded 18 deals, most of which were in the economic field.

In the inaugural speech, the new ARATS president said interaction between the two sides should be based on the 1992 Consensus between the mainland and Taiwan, which states that the two sides are both part of one China.

Chen Deming said economic cooperation remains the focus in cross-Straits exchanges and has the potential for greater success.

In particular, he said, the association will strive to accelerate follow-up negotiations regarding the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement to further promote two-way trade and investment.

"We hope a new round of negotiations can be held as early as in the first half of this year, on which the cross-Straits agreement on service trade can be signed.

"Also this year, we expect the agreement on cargo trade, and that the mechanism of settling disputes can be reached by two sides," he said.

Chen Deming has also pledged to push for the establishment of reciprocal offices by ARATS and its Taiwan counterpart to promote exchanges.

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