Taipei, Dec. 17 (CNA) Taiwan and China are expected to complete negotiations on liberalizing trade in services across the Taiwan Strait by the end of 2012, Taiwan's top mainland affairs negotiator said Monday.
Opening access in services was one of the priorities in follow-up negotiations on the Taiwan-China Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), and discussions on the issue are in the final stage, said Lin Join-sane, head of the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).
Talks on liberalizing merchandise trade further under the ECFA were also going smoothly, Lin said at the SEF's board of directors and supervisors meeting, without elaborating.
Under the terms of the ECFA, which was signed in June 2010, hundreds of Taiwanese and Chinese goods included in the pact's early harvest list were given preferential tariff treatment in each other's territory, beginning on Jan. 1, 2011.
Most of those goods will be given duty-free treatment from January 2013, but there are thousands more products and services shipped between the two countries that still carry high duties and are under negotiation.
Lin, who recently returned to Taiwan from a visit to China, also noted that China responded positively to the problems many Taiwanese-invested companies in China are having in getting financing.
The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), the SEF's Chinese counterpart, agreed to loosen restrictions on Taiwanese businesses applying for special funds made available by China's government, Lin said.
Meanwhile, on the issue of China's controversial new passports, Lin said he told China's top cross-strait negotiator Chen Yunlin during his trip that Taiwan has taken a firm stance on the issue.
The passports, which showed many areas that China does not have jurisdiction over, including Taiwan, as part of its national territory were seen as infringing on the sovereignty of Taiwan and other neighboring Asian countries.
The passports drew stern protests from the Philippines, Vietnam and India, among others.
The Chinese authorities expressed understanding of Taiwan's position and promised to handle the matter seriously, Lin said.
According to Lin, the Beijing-based association said the updated passports were not official passports, and the changes were only made based on style considerations and "without any particular motive in mind."
Lin, who wrapped up a six-day visit to China's Changjiang and Zhujiang regions on Sunday, will embark on another trip to Fujian Province Tuesday. The official is scheduled to meet with Taiwanese businesspeople in Quanzhou, Zhangzhou and Xiamen.
One of the delegation's members, Mainland Affairs Council deputy chief Lin Chu-chia, will visit China for the first time since assuming his post in late November.
(By Scarlett Chai and Kendra Lin)