Cross-strait service trade pact to be signed next week

Taipei, June 13 (CNA) A long-anticipated service trade agreement between Taiwan and China will be signed next week, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian said Thursday. The signing will take place during a planned meeting between SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane and Chen Deming, president of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), who serve as the chief cross-strait negotiators on behalf of their respective governments. According to Kao, the exact date and venue of the Lin-Chen meeting will be decided in a preparatory meeting scheduled for Friday in Taipei. It will the first high-level meeting of is kind since the last one was held in August 2012 and the first since Chen took the job in late April. The service trade agreement will be a follow-up to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in 2010 and a "very important step forward," said Kao. The service trade pact, along with an investment protection agreement signed in 2012 and two other agreements on merchandise trade and dispute settlement that are likely to be concluded at the end of this year will complete a framework for free trade across the strait, he said. "This will be very important for Taiwan's effort to get involved in regional economic integration," he said. Friday's preparatory meeting will be led by Kao and ARATS Vice President Zheng Lizhong, who will arrive in Taiwan that same day. Besides discussing the date, venue and agenda for the Lin-Chen meeting, Kao and Zheng will also review and finalize the text of the service trade agreement. According to media reports, the two sides have tentatively planned to hold the meeting in Shanghai on June 21. (By Scarlett Chai and Y.F. Low)