Lin Join-sane (L), chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), shakes hands with Chen Deming, president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), during the signing ceremony of a cross-Strait service trade agreement in Shanghai, east China, June 21, 2013. (Xinhua/Ren Long)
SHANGHAI, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Negotiators from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan signed a service trade agreement on Friday that is expected to further strengthen economic ties across the Taiwan Strait.
The agreement was inked by the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which are authorized by the mainland and Taiwan, respectively, to handle cross-Strait affairs.
According to the agreement, the mainland will open 80 service sectors to Taiwan, while Taiwan will open 64 sectors to the mainland.
The sectors include those related to commerce, telecommunications, construction, distribution, environment, health, tourism, entertainment, culture, sports, transportation and finance.
ARATS President Chen Deming said the agreement "marks a new level for cross-Strait economic and trade cooperation and complies with the trend of the world's economic development."
Under the service trade deal, the threshold for market access will be lowered for service providers from both sides and more favorable policies will be formulated to boost cross-Strait cooperation in the service industry.
The agreement will further normalize and liberalize service trade between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, as well as promote the opening-up of mutual markets in the service sector, the ARATS and SEF said in a joint press release.
It is one of several follow-up agreements to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a comprehensive cross-Strait economic pact signed in 2010. The pact is intended to reduce tariffs and commercial barriers between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.
The service trade agreement has stipulated basic service trade principles, rights and obligations, the orientation of development and relevant working mechanisms for both sides.
Also on Friday, the ARATS and SEF vowed to proceed with other follow-up agreements to the ECFA. Negotiations on a commodity trade agreement and a dispute settlement agreement are expected to be completed before the end of 2013, and a pact to avoid double taxation is expected to be signed in the later half of this year.
The ARATS and SEF have also agreed to address shortages of fresh water in Kinmen and move ahead with talks on the establishment of offices on each other's side.
They will hold talks on agreements regarding cross-Strait cooperation on earthquake monitoring and matters of meteorology.
The two sides also pledged to further exchange views on Chen Deming's proposal to launch negotiations on agreements that would facilitate cross-Strait exchanges in culture, education and science.
ARATS Executive Vice President Zheng Lizhong said at a press conference after the signing ceremony that the mainland and Taiwan have set up a consultation mechanism to further open up the industry in the service trade pact.
"Opening up the service trade industry is a gradual process," Zheng said, adding that follow-up consultations will be needed for such liberalization depending on the industry's future development and changes in market demand.
Mainland Taiwan affairs chief Zhang Zhijun said while meeting with SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane on Friday that "the service trade agreement has expanded and enriched cross-Strait economic cooperation."
As an active response to aspirations from both sides, the new deal will bring greater welfare to people across the Strait, said Zhang, director of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
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