Taiwan, China to negotiate trade pact in October

TAIPEI: Taiwan and China will begin negotiations on a comprehensive trade pact in October, in a further step towards closer economic ties between the two neighbours, a report here said Saturday.

Vice trade ministers from both sides will head the negotiations for the economic cooperation framework agreement, or ECFA, the China Times reported, quoting Taiwanese economic minister Yiin Chii-ming.

Yiin, who met his Chinese counterpart Chen Deming during last week's APEC conference in Singapore, said Beijing was keen to push for the pact, similar in scope to a free-trade agreement, the report said.

The two sides will aim to conclude discussions by the end of the year so that an agreement may be ready for signing at an upcoming meeting between their top envoys -- Taiwan's Chiang Pin-kung and Chen Yunlin of China, it said.

The two are expected to meet in Taiwan later this year, following talks in April which led to agreements on expanding air links and promoting mainland Chinese investment on the island.

Taiwan's government is counting on the pact to help free the flow of goods and personnel and to help it tackle recession, but critics warn against the island becoming overly dependent on its giant neighbour.

China and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Relations have improved dramatically since Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office last year.