Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said discussions on cross-strait goods and services trade agreements are progressing smoothly and the pacts should be finalized next year.
In an interview with the local media, the president said that while there is no specific time table as yet, he expects discussions on the services agreement to be wrapped up by year-end, with both sides inking the deal in the following six months.
Ma said it is imperative Taiwan conclude the goods pact by the end of 2013 before Beijing finalizes free trade agreement discussions with Seoul and Tokyo. Not to do so would undermine the country’s competitive edge and place tremendous pressure on the economy, he added.
In response to mainland China’s call that Taiwan must open its services sector in compliance with World Trade Organization guidelines, Ma said differences in market sizes between the two sides of the strait and other special circumstances need to be taken into consideration.
While full market access will be the norm in Taiwan’s dealings with mainland China, some control measures are necessary in unusual circumstances, he added.
Such exceptions extend to the agricultural sector, Ma said, reiterating that the government will not lift the import ban on 834 mainland Chinese agricultural products or further reduce tariffs on more than 1,000 items greenlighted for export to Taiwan.
The president also reaffirmed his determination to protect the rights of local farmers and agricultural sector, but said Taiwan needs to abandon its protectionist mindset and focus on the big picture when pursuing further trade liberalization.