Taipei, June 27 (CNA) Taiwan and China should simplify the application process for travel documents for each other's people to boost tourism on both sides, Taiwan's top negotiator with China, Chiang Pin-kung, said on Wednesday.
Chiang, the chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, said nearly 1.8 million Chinese nationals visited Taiwan last year and that he expected the number to exceed 2 million this year.
Also, of the 9 million trips Taiwanese make abroad each year, 5 million of them are to China.
"Both sides should continue to work on tourism, especially on the simplification of travel documents," he said, without elaborating.
He may have been referring to the complicated procedures Chinese nationals need to follow when they want to visit Taiwan on their own rather than as a part of a tour group.
These independent travelers must first apply for an entry permit to Taiwan, then apply for approval of their trip from the Chinese government and then find a travel agent allowed to handle independent travel to Taiwan.
The process has hindered the growth of the independent travelers program Taiwan launched for Chinese nationals in June 2011, and Chang believed a simpler process would bring more Chinese to Taiwan, and increase commercial opportunities, including demand for medical services.
On follow-up talks under the Taiwan-China Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), Chiang said the two sides were engaged in intensive negotiations on more than 5,800 items from Taiwan and 6,700 items from China and hoped to complete them by the end of next year.
He also said he hoped to complete negotiations on the service sector, which he said would bring benefits to both sides, by the end of this year.
(By Chen Hung-chin and Jamie Wang)