04/27/2009, 00.00
TAIWAN - CHINA
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"New era" between China and Taiwan begins with agreements signed yesterday

Deal covers cross-strait financial services, direct investment by Taiwanese companies in China, more direct flights, and co-operation on criminal investigations. The two sides stress their mutual desire for ever closer cooperation, especially economic.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China and Taiwan are proclaiming the start of a "new era" in their relations, after ratifying in Nanjing (Jiangsu) a bilateral financial services agreement and direct investment by Taiwan in China.

The agreement clears the way for the banks of either country to operate in the other, a goal that it is hoped will be reached by the end of 2009. Taiwanese companies have always been among the leading foreign investors in China, but they have encountered difficulties in obtaining financing from Chinese banks, which has led many companies to open branches in Hong Kong in order to facilitate entry into the Chinese market. Moreover, China, since it does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country, has not yet opened its financial market to companies from the island.

An agreement has also been signed to increase the number of direct flights between the two sides, from 108 to 270 per week, with access for traffic from more airports in the two countries. Also, there will be greater cooperation in the fight against crime, including financial crimes.The two sides signed a declaration in principle intending to open Taiwan to investment from China, but without specifying the details; as of now Chinese companies can invest in Taiwan, but are excluded from industries like high technology and real estate.

Chen Yunlin, head of Beijing's semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, says that "the mainland will buy more products from Taiwan and send more tourists to the island, while encouraging more Taiwan enterprises to set up on the mainland." He stresses that "in less than a year's time systematic talks between the two sides have already made great progress," the divisions of the last 60 years have been overcome, and "cross-strait relations have now entered a new period of peaceful development."

Favorable views are also being expressed by Chiang Pinkung, Chen's counterpart in Taipei (in the photo: the two congratulating one another), although he has admitted that various issues must be resolved before Beijing will accept signing a general trade agreement, as Taiwanese president Ma Yingjeou desires. "At this point," Chiang adds, "Taiwan needs to strengthen financial co-operation with the mainland."

The new relations began after a Ma was elected president in May of 2008, replacing his predecessor Chen Shuibian, a fervent supporter of independence from Beijing.

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