21-year-old SEF to help cross-Strait relations prosper

TAIPEI, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), said on Friday his organization will promote cross-Strait relations to a "new level" through further negotiations with its mainland counterpart.

At a ceremony in Taipei to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the founding of the SEF, Chiang pledged his organization will continue its work.

The SEF was authorized by Taiwan authorities and founded on March 9, 1991, to handle cross-Strait issues just as relations between Taiwan and the mainland entered a conciliatory stage. Later that year, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), SEF's mainland-based counterpart, was established.

Chiang said at the ceremony that he believed Taiwan authorities' cross-Strait policies have the support of the majority of the public at present, as proved by the leadership election in January, 2012.

During the election, incumbent Taiwan leader and ruling Kuomintang chairman Ma Ying-jeou comfortably secured a second term in office after defeating the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and minority People First Party Chairman James Soong in a three-way race.

On the basis of the 1992 Consensus, the SEF and the ARATS have concluded seven rounds of negotiations and signed 16 agreements. These have benefited people in Taiwan, boosted Taiwan's economic development and served as an important basis for cross-Strait communication, he said.

In November 1992, the ARATS and the SEF reached an consensus in which the two organizations pledged that "both sides of the Taiwan Strait adhere to the one-China principle." The agreement has since served as a significant basis for cross-Strait negotiations and peaceful development.

In the future, Taiwan will attach more importance to its economic reform, strives to maintain financial balance and tackle the income gap between rich and poor, in a bid to realize economic restructuring, according to Chiang.

One of the important tasks will be the follow-up negotiations to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), he said.

The ECFA is a landmark pact signed between the SEF and the ARATS in 2010 that allows both sides to gradually reduce and remove trade and investment barriers.

The issues of major concern during the follow-up negotiations include investment insurance, trade dispute settlement, as well as the trade of commodities and services, he said.

Chiang explained that the reduction of tariffs on about 6,700 commodities from the Chinese mainland and more than 5,800 goods from Taiwan will be discussed during negotiations between the SEF and the ARATS.

He described the negotiations as a "huge project" which he believes will be beneficial to the export of Taiwanese goods to the mainland.


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