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Cross-Strait service trade could mean golden period ahead

Updated: 06 21 , 2013 08:48
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SHANGHAI -- Experts believe the service sectors on both sides of the Taiwan Strait will enter a golden period after the signing of an agreement at the upcoming talks between chief negotiators from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

A cross-Strait service trade agreement is scheduled to be confirmed and signed by Lin Join-sane, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), and Chen Deming, president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), on Friday in Shanghai.

The upcoming talks will mark the first talks between the new chief negotiators from the two sides, and the agreement to be signed is the result of two years of negotiations that wrapped up in late March.

Ye Huide, executive vice chairman of the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland, said he appreciates the effectiveness of those negotiations.

Ye said the earlier the agreement is signed, the better, because Taiwan's entrepreneurs have always hoped that negotiations on the issue could be facilitated.

Since 2008, the two sides have held eight round of talks and a total of 18 deals have been reached, according to Ye.

Friday's deal will be one of the follow-up agreements to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a wide-ranging cross-Strait economic pact signed in 2010.

"Signing a service trade agreement is the natural result of the deals that have already been reached," Ye said, adding that the signing will be good news for Taiwan's entrepreneurs, as it will offer solutions to many pressing problems facing them.

Observers have said Taiwan's entrepreneurs have long anticipated an agreement on service trade that involves the business, finance, medical services, tourism and entertainment sectors.

Inking such an agreement is significant at the current stage, said Sheng Jiuyuan, executive director of the Shanghai-based Pudong Research Center on Taiwan Economics.

"It is significant for Taiwan, because the island's service sector needs to be further expanded, though it has accumulated rich experience," Sheng said.

"The agreement will also benefit the mainland, which has been devoted to nurturing a favorable environment for the growth of its service industry in its 12th Five-year Plan, which began in 2011," Sheng added.

Official statistics show that the output of the service sector accounted for about 68 percent of the island's GDP and over 58 percent of employees worked in the sector in 2012, while the added value of the tertiary sector accounted for only about 44 percent of the mainland's GDP in the same year.

Ye said the deal would not only be a boon to the service sector. He forecast that fields like the research and development of technology and production and processing will also benefit.

Strengthened cross-Strait cooperation in the service sector will also lead to expanded cooperation on capital and technology, said Zhong Yan, deputy head of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies.

Though details of the deal have not yet been unveiled, Yang Yi, spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a recent press conference that mainland proposals for the negotiations cover a wide range of fields, including communications, architecture, the environment and sports.

Ye voiced his hope that the agreement will involve as many fields as possible, which would optimize its benefits for both sides.