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ECFA to be signed late June or in early July: premier

2010/06/14 19:19:42

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) Chances remain high that a cross-TaiwanStrait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) will be signedlate this month as originally expected, Premier Wu Den-yih saidMonday.

"Otherwise, the agreement can be signed in early July, " Wu saidin an interview with electronic media after negotiators from Taiwanand China concluded a third round of ECFA talks in Beijing theprevious day.

During Sunday's meeting, the two sides came to terms on the textof the agreement and exchanged the "early harvest" lists for thefirst time.

On reports that China has agreed to offer tariff exemptions orreductions on 500 products from Taiwan under the ECFA's "earlyharvest" program, Wu said the number of items is not that important.

"What really matters is whether the product is one of our mainexport items," he noted.

The items contained in Taiwan's "early harvest" list account forabout 15 percent of its total annual exports to China, Wu said.

More items may be included under the "early harvest" program infuture talks after the pact takes effect.

"Six months after the signing of ECFA, the two sides will meet toreview the 'early harvest' program. Those items that weren't includedthis time still have the opportunity to be listed in the future, " Wusaid.

Noting that "early harvest" list negotiations have been stuck oncertain items from the beginning, Wu said that if contentious issuescan be resolved in the coming days, the ECFA would still likely besigned in late June.

According to Wu, China demanded that Taiwan open its market to oroffer tariff reductions on 200 industrial items.

"We may agree to 100 of them or the number may fall between 100and 200," he said, with the items Taiwan will agree to being those inwhich Taiwan has a competitive edge.

"We will definitely not open the market to Chinese products thatmay threaten the survival of local manufacturers," Wu said.

On specific items, Wu said, China has made it clear in the earlystage of ECFA talks that it is not likely to offer tariff concessionsfor finished cars from Taiwan.

"They promised that they will consider such a request when thelocal content rate of finished cars from Taiwan is further raised, "Wu said.

For its part, Wu said, Taiwan has insisted on the inclusion ofauto parts and components on the "early harvest" list, a request thatChina reportedly has accepted.

Touching on the petrochemical industry, Wu said Taiwan has beenlobbying hard for inclusion of eight key petrochemical items, butnegotiations in this area remain deadlocked.

China may consider accepting some of them, but the chances thatit will accept all of them is slim, the premier said.

Similar scenarios were also seen in talks regarding digitallycontrolled machine tools and some other machinery items, he added.

(By Lee Ming-chung and Sofia Wu)