China official frustrated by delays in Taiwan services trade pact: Media

TAIPEI (Reuters) - The head of an official Chinese delegation to Taiwan has voiced concerns about delays in the passage of a ground-breaking services trade pact between the mainland and the self-ruled island, local media reported on Wednesday.

The pact, which would open 80 of China's service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwan sectors to China, was one step away from full ratification in Taiwan's Parliament in March when students stormed the legislature to block its passage.

Mr Chen Deming, head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, is the highest-level mainland official to visit Taiwan since China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou's heavy defeat in the local polls. "How is it that negotiations with our own people are proving so difficult?" the Economic Daily News quoted Mr Chen, who arrived in Taiwan this week, as saying.

Mr Chen made the comments in a closed-door meeting with editors of local newspapers after arriving in Taiwan this week.

The ruling China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party is struggling to convince voters of the benefits of deeper ties with China, underlined by the party's drubbing late last month in local elections that left it facing its biggest crisis in more than a decade.

In June, violent protests marred the first-ever visit to Taiwan of the Chinese head of its Taiwan Affairs Office, causing him to cut short his trip and underscoring the tension surrounding Mr Chen's visit.

Smalls groups of protesters have again heckled the visiting Chinese delegation, although there have been no reports of trouble.

Mr Chen compared the stalled pact to the recent free-trade agreement signed between China and South Korea, which passed within two years, newspapers reported.

The push to ink the services pact comes after a slew of agreements between the two sides on everything from tourism to finance.

China still considers Taiwan a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control.

Suspicions of the mainland have escalated this year after the student protests over the pact and the recent pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Over the course of his week-long visit, Mr Chen will meet with business leaders and attend a cross-strait economic summit alongside Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma and Mr Morris Chang, founder of world's largest contract chip firm Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.