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Talk of the day -- Cross-strait talks enter tough period

Talk of the day -- Cross-strait talks enter tough period

Taiwan's top negotiator with China said in a year-end press conference Monday that systematic dialogue between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait since June 2008 has focused mostly on less contentious issues to date but that tougher issues will be dealt with this year.
The following are excerpts of local media coverage of the issue: The United Daily News: Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung said Monday that bilateral talks will focus this year on the core issues of direct cross-strait trade -- an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), taxation agreement and intellectual property protection.
Chiang, reporting on issues and progress in cross-strait talks, also admitted that based on the principle of "easy issues come first and difficult issues later, " the talks will enter the "difficult issues" period this year.
At this juncture, mutual trust built by the two sides will be a valuable asset in the negotiations. Despite differences of opinion, the two sides should be able to solve problems and reach agreements, Chiang asserted.
China Times: Chiang said that the exchange of offices between the two quasi-official intermediary bodies -- SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) -- will be discussed sooner or later. But it will have to wait until the government determines its policy on the issue. The government will have to consider many objective factors, and the SEF has yet to receive related information.
He also said he hopes to forge a national consensus to sign the ECFA in the next round of cross-strait talks, preferably before the Legislative Yuan's June recess, so that the agreement can take effect in 2011.
Chiang revealed that cross-strait exchanges will start in mid-March, and that he will lead a delegation to mainly visit Taiwanese businessmen in central China.
Kao Koong-lian, the SEF's vice chairman and secretary-general, said talks on the ECFA have yet to enter into the substantive negotiation stage.
Both sides have only exchanged information and conducted studies on a proposed deal, but the talks have yet to touch on the "early harvest" program, a list of items that could be the first to enjoy tariff exemptions.
Economic Daily News: The Ma administration has geared up to publicize the ECFA as the support rate for the pact has fallen from 70 percent in April last year to 50.9 percent in an Executive Yuan survey in early January.
President Ma Ying-jeou will call a press conference later today to explain the importance of signing the agreement.
Before Ma, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has since February 2009 held weekly seminars to try to assuage public misgivings about the trade pact.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman and deputy chairmen have also presided over 100 meetings related to the ECFA and they have also stated the case for the trade pact on radio and TV programs.
The Financial Supervisory Commission has also made presentations on the ECFA in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung and will speak in Hsinchu and Tainan in mid-March.
(By Lilian Wu)