Fruitful economic cooperation has 'benefited people from both sides'
Both sides of the Taiwan Straits should cherish the current situation of peaceful development and keep enhancing cooperation, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday.
As long as both continue to communicate with each other and move forward on a common political basis, cross-Straits exchanges and mutual understanding will be boosted, Li said on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference.
Li had been meeting with a delegation led by Vincent C. Siew, honorary chairman of the Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation, based in Taiwan. It was the first time Li had met with a politician from Taiwan since becoming premier.
The mainland was deepening reform, expanding opening-up, upgrading its economic structure and maintaining long-term steady growth, which had brought opportunities for cross-Straits cooperation, Li said.
The mainland wants to share the opportunities of economic growth with Taiwan and to take Taiwan people's interests into consideration in cross-Straits exchanges, he added.
"We sincerely hope that our Taiwan compatriots can seize the opportunities," Li said.
Siew said the mainland and Taiwan should positively promote the cross-Straits economic and strategic dialogue, and establish mechanisms to enhance economic cooperation.
Both sides should go hand in hand, jointly face the challenges and create a better future, Siew said.
Li said cross-Straits ties had improved since 2008, and this fruitful economic cooperation had benefited people from the mainland and Taiwan.
Siew said he was grateful for having been invited to attend the forum many times in recent years, adding that he had met with President Xi Jinping during last year's forum.
During the forum's opening ceremony this year, Siew was invited to sit in the VIP zone near Zhang Zhijun, director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office.
Zhang said on Thursday that cross-Straits cooperation has been continuously enhanced in recent years, and this should be cherished by those from the mainland and Taiwan.
He told reporters before the opening ceremony that a protest that started last month against the cross-Straits service trade pact showed that some Taiwan people feared that only large companies could benefit from the agreement.
The protesters, mostly young students, ended their occupation of the legislative chamber on Thursday.
Zhang said he wanted to have discussions with small and medium-sized companies in Taiwan to hear their views.
Asked if he wished to talk to the students who protested against the pact, Zhang said he was willing to talk to people from all walks of life in Taiwan.
He said it was clear that the protest would not affect the development of cross-Straits ties, adding that he hoped to visit Taiwan in the first half of this year.
The protest was triggered after the ruling Kuomintang in Taiwan decided to bypass a detailed public review of the agreement. Protesters targeted what they said was an undemocratic process, fearing the pact's implementation would hurt the island's businesses and cause job losses.
On March 30, about 100,000 protesters joined a sit-in on Ketagalan Boulevard and nearby streets in Taipei.
A follow-up to the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, the service trade agreement aims to open up 80 of the mainland's service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwan sectors to the mainland.
Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said on Wednesday that if the cross-Straits service trade pact could not be enacted, the island's economy would be seriously affected, taiwan.cn reported.
The pact could bring more job opportunities, not unemployment, to Taiwan, Ma said, adding that as of January, Taiwan had opened 495 companies on the mainland, which had hired 9,624 workers from the island.
Ma said on Tuesday that Taiwan's opposition party should not boycott the review, and the public should reach a consensus benefiting the people of Taiwan in the future. He welcomed the protesters' decision to leave the legislative chamber, which they had occupied since mid-March.
Justin Yifu Lin, former World Bank vice-president and an economics professor at Peking University, voiced support for the Taiwan authorities' efforts to stimulate economic growth.
The pursuit of free trade was a global trend, and Taiwan people should focus on what was good for the local economy, Lin said on Wednesday at a question-and-answer session at the forum.
Born in Taiwan and speaking of his experiences over the past 40 years, Lin said that discussions on any other subject would be in vain if Taiwan failed to grasp the opportunity for economic development.
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Premier Li Keqiang meets with Vincent C. Siew, honorary chairman of the Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation, on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference in Hainan province on Thursday. Wu Zhiyi / China Daily