Beijing Wednesday renewed its call for cross-Straits talks to facilitate
tariff-free imports of the island's agricultural and aquatic products.
"There is an urgent need for consultation between non-governmental bodies
across the Straits for direct shipment of agricultural goods from Taiwan to the
mainland at an early date," said Liu Junchuan, deputy director of the Economic
Affairs Bureau of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
Taipei has been reluctant to co-operate with the mainland in regard to
preferential policies towards Taiwan farmers.
The official told a press conference that Beijing's call for such talks shows
its "kindness," and "sincerity" to improve bilateral ties, given the fact that
it could have unilaterally implemented the policies.
On April 15, Beijing announced that it would allow tariff-free imports of 11
Taiwan-grown vegetables and eight varieties of aquatic products from Taiwan.
Starting from August 1 last year, the mainland also offered the same
treatment to 15 Taiwan-grown fruits including pineapples, lychees, papayas,
starfruit and mangos.
These goodwill gestures, however, have been billed by the island's ruling
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration as a "united front" strategy
aimed at wooing the farmers in rural southern Taiwan, a key support base for the
The DPP administration has yet to authorize non-government organizations from
the island to talk to their mainland counterparts on how to implement the
As a sign of the DPP's unwillingness to develop closer ties with the
mainland, its lawmakers on Tuesday blocked an opposition attempt to vote on a
bill to establish direct transport links across the Straits.
The bill proposed by the Kuomintang and People First Party called for removal
of the ban on direct cross-Straits transport links, imposed by Taipei since
The lack of direct air and shipping links between Taiwan and the mainland
incurs an estimated economic loss of more than US$1 billion annually to the
island and has contributed a lot to its economic woes.
Customs figures show that the mainland imported more than 2,310 tons of fruit
worth US$2.9 million from Taiwan between August 1 last year and April 30, 2006,
with more than 3.9 million yuan (US$488,000) in tariffs exempted.
Also yesterday, Li Weiyi, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, asked
Taipei to facilitate early visits of mainland tourist groups.