China and Taiwan sign historic trade pact

CHONGQING, China, June 29, 2010 (AFP) - Taiwan and China signed a historic trade pact Tuesday.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, hailed by both sides as a milestone and a commercial imperative in an era of strong regional cooperation, was signed by senior delegates in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing.

The signing of the agreement, by far the most sweeping ever between the two sides, marks the culmination of a policy introduced by Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou after assuming power in 2008.

Chen Yunlin (R), the head of a semi-official Chinese agency, toasts with his Taiwan counterpart Chiang Ping-kun, chairman for the Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation, during the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signning ceremony in Chongqing, Sichuan in China on June 29, 2010. AFP photo

"Signing this agreement is not only an important milestone in economic ties between the two sides," said the leader of the Taiwanese delegation, Chiang Pin-kung.

"It's also a huge step forward for the two amid the trend of regional economic integration and globalisation."

China is Taiwan's largest trading partner, its largest investment destination, and now also home to a growing number of Taiwanese.

It is estimated that about one million people from the island live in China, especially in the Shanghai area.

The trade pact looks set to push interaction between the two sides to a new level.

The deal will confer preferential tariffs, and in some cases zero tariffs, on 539 Taiwanese products from petrochemicals and auto parts to machinery -- representing 16 percent of the island's total export value to China.

At the same time, only about 267 Chinese items, or 10.5 percent of China's export value to Taiwan, will be placed on the "early harvest" list enjoying zero or falling tariffs.

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