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Free trade pact proposed
( 2003-07-21 09:54) (Agencies)

China and Taiwan should negotiate a free trade pact to boost cross-strait economic ties, state media reported Saturday citing a senior official, in the latest overture by the mainland to its island rival.

The free trade agreement suggested by Taiwan Affairs Office deputy director Wang Zaixi follows the signing this month of a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between China and Hong Kong aimed at removing barriers to cross- border trade.

Wang said both Beijing and Taipei should give top priority to bilateral economic and trade relations, the official China Daily reported Saturday.

"Any political dispute that interferes with and affects bilateral and economic and trade exchanges should be left aside and gradually resolved," he told a two- day conference on cross-strait relations held in the southwest province of Yunnan.

Cross-strait talks on closer integration at a political level have been stymied by Beijing's insistence that the government in Taipei acknowledge mainland sovereignty over the island under the "One-China principle."

With Taipei reluctant to make that concession, Beijing has continued to push for closer economic ties in the hope that this will eventually build pressure for political integration.

Direct postal, transport and communications links across Taiwan Strait have also been severed, forcing both trade and travelers to use a third port such as Hong Kong.

Any negotiations for a cross-strait, free trade pact would possibly require the restoration of these three direct links.


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