Taiwan aiming to finalize trade pact with China soon: MAC

Taipei, Sept. 29 (CNA) Taiwan is hoping to conclude its negotiations with China on a trade in goods agreement by the end of the year, a senior official in charge of China policy said Tuesday. "We hope the negotiations can be completed by the end of the year to gain the best business opportunities for Taiwanese enterprises and enhance their competitive edge," said Lin Chu-chia (???), deputy head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC). He also said the next round of meeting between MAC Minister Hsia Li-yan (???) and his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun (???), director of Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, is being arranged, and he hopes the meeting could take place soon. The MAC will also push for the establishment of reciprocal representative offices by both sides to protect the rights and interests of Taiwanese in China, he said. Looking ahead, he said the promotion of cross-strait trade cooperation and regional economic integration will be a priority. Lin made the remarks at a meeting with Taiwanese businessmen operating in China, which was sponsored by Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF), a semi-official body that handles cross-strait affairs in the absence of official ties. Also addressing the gathering, SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane (???) said that after a meeting between Hsia and Zhang in China, he will host his Chinese counterpart, Chen Deming (???), president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, in Taiwan at a convenient time. The four issues on the agenda will be setting up reciprocal representative offices, goods in trade pact, dispute settlement and environmental protection cooperation, Lin Join-sane said. Chen has expressed a wish to visit places in Taiwan that he has not been to before, and "we will accommodate his wishes in this regard," arranging visits to Miaoli (??) and Nantou (??), Lin Join-sane said. Meanwhile, Chen has invited Taiwanese businessmen to visit in mid-October the northwestern routes that are included in China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, a development strategy and framework that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily in Eurasia, Lin Join-sane said. The Chinese initiative has two main components, the land-based "Silk Road Economic Belt" and oceangoing "Maritime Silk Road." The trip will cover Shaanxi (??), Ningxia (??) and Gansu (??), allowing Taiwanese businessmen to learn about business opportunities there and assess the risks before making any moves, according to the SEF chairman. (By Yin Chu-chieh and Lilian Wu)