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Economic issues come first in Taiwan-China talks: minister

2012/02/01 18:02:01

Washington, Jan. 31 (CNA) The head of Taiwan's top China policy planner on Tuesday downplayed the possibility of political talks with China after the Jan. 14 presidential election, stressing that economic issues must come first before conditions become ripe for such talks.

"It is not very likely for Taiwan and China to embark on any political talks in the absence of a high level of consensus at home and mutual trust between the two sides," Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan said in Washington D.C., where she was scheduled to attend the 60th National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.

"A lot of economic issues are waiting to be solved, so I don't think China will rush to open any political talks," Lai told CNA.

The issue of political talks with China surfaced after President Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected to a second term last month, as Ma floated the idea of a peace agreement with China last November. However, Ma has repeatedly stressed that signing such an accord would be premised on public support, national needs and legislative supervision.

Backing the view that Ma's cross-strait policies were key to his re-election, Lai said that the president's victory was a vindication from the Taiwanese people of his approach toward China since he assumed the presidency in 2008.

Asked about the long-stalled investment protection pact, Lai said she was confident Taiwan and China would reach a consensus on the issue in the eighth high-level conference between the two sides, which is reportedly scheduled for the middle of this year.

Along with the ruling Kuomintang Vice Chairman John Chiang, Lai arrived in the U.S. capital Tuesday and was set to attend a gathering with local Taiwanese expatriates later in the day.

Noting the U.S.' acknowledgments that Taiwan has become a mature democracy after the peaceful conclusion of the recent presidential and legislative elections, Chiang said that relations between Taiwan and the U.S. have reached an unprecedented level of stability.

On the progress of Taiwan's inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, Chiang said he had pushed for action on the issue in a meeting with Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Chiang said Lieberman promised to ask the Department of Homeland Security to send officials to Taiwan as soon as possible to assess Taiwan's qualifications for the inclusion.

(By Chou Yung-chieh and Scully Hsiao)
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