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Cross-strait trade talks hang in the balance as economics minister quits

2014/11/30 16:44:55

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) A cloud of uncertainty is now hanging over Taiwan's trade talks with China as Taiwan's Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun announced Sunday that he had tendered his resignation, one day before the entire Cabinet is expected to resign to facilitate a reshuffle.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah resigned Saturday shortly after it became clear that the ruling Kuomintang had suffered a crushing defeat in the nationwide local government elections.

The Cabinet is expected to resign en masse Monday in preparation for a reshuffle, according to its spokesman Sun Lih-chyun, but Duh dislosed Sunday that he had already resigned.

"I'm doing my packing," Duh said.

Asked whether the election results and upcoming Cabinet reshuffle would affect the ongoing cross-Taiwan Strait trade talks, Duh said that question would have to be answered by his successor.

Duh's departure from office leaves greater uncertainty about cross-strait issues such as a long-shelved trade in services agreement that was signed last year between Taiwan and China and a proposed bill to monitor all pacts signed or to be signed between the two sides.

The KMT suffered a major defeat in Saturday's local government elections, losing five of the six municipality seats and managing to hold on to only five of the other 16 city and county seats that were contested.

On the issue of a merchandise trade agreement with China, Duh said a date had already been set for discussion of the technical aspects of the pact but he did not know whether it would be changed.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs was scheduled to hold talks with China on Dec. 12 on technical issues pertaining to proposed cross-strait merchandise trade in the industrial sectors of machine tools, panels, automobiles and petrochemicals, according to Duh.

Since China and South Korea concluded negotiations earlier this month on a free trade agreement (FTA), there has been concern in some quarters in Taiwan, particularly in light of Taiwan's 70 percent overlap with South Korea in exports to China.

Against this backdrop, Taiwan's authorities see the proposed cross-strait merchandise trade agreement as a means of cushioning the effects of the China-South Korea FTA, which is expected to be implemented next year.

(By Huang Chiao-wen and Elizabeth Hsu)
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