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Mainland official pledges enhanced economic cooperation with Taiwan

BEIJING, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- A senior Chinese mainland official has said the government will work with Taiwan to enhance cross-Strait economic exchanges and cooperation.

The mainland would this year focus on fulfilling the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and conducting follow-up negotiations on the pact, which took effect in September last year, Xu Mang, director of the economy bureau of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told Xinhua in an interview.

Top of the follow-up agenda was cross-Strait investment protection. The mainland hoped to reach a mutually beneficial agreement on the issue with Taiwan at an early date, with concerns of both sides respected, Xu said.

Xu said the two sides should adhere to the principle of balance in negotiations, aiming for effective protection, fewer restrictions and more convenience for cross-Strait investment.

Mainland and Taiwan negotiators agreed in December last year to continue discussing the investment protection agreement at the seventh round of talks scheduled for this year.

The mainland would also continue this year to encourage investment in Taiwan, address Taiwan enterprises' concerns over economic transformation and development, and promote cross-Strait cooperation in finance, modern services and agriculture, Xu said.

The first step in implementing the ECFA, the "early harvest program," took effect on Jan. 1, when the mainland reduced tariffs on 539 Taiwanese items, or 16 percent of imports from Taiwan, while Taiwan cut duties on 267 mainland items, 10 percent of imports from the mainland.

Within two years, the duties on those products will be reduced to zero.

Xu said the implementation of the early harvest program would boost trade links across the Strait.

As the products receiving tariff reductions covered industries including agriculture, petrochemicals, machinery, textiles and transport, Taiwan businesses on the mainland would benefit from lower purchase costs on Taiwan raw materials, Xu said.

Taiwan's small and medium-sized enterprises and low-income groups would especially benefit from the tariff reductions on exports of 18 agricultural products to the mainland, Xu said.

Statistics from Taiwan showed that driven by the tariff reduction, the island's small and medium-sized enterprise export trade volume to the mainland would increase to 18 billion U.S. dollars per year.

"The tariff reduction policy will benefit more Taiwan compatriots," Xu said.

Cross-Strait trade volume totaled 145.37 billion U.S. dollars last year, a rise of 36.9 percent year on year. The figure included 115.69 billion U.S. dollars of Taiwan exports to the mainland, up 20.2 percent. 

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