China-Taiwan talks hit snag over economic issues, end today

This article was first published in The Straits Times on April 29, 1993

China and Taiwan will wrap up their talks here today because the two semi-government bodies handling bilate-ral ties yesterday failed to resolve some issues on economic co-operation.

China had wanted direct trade, postal and transportation links with Taiwan to further strengthen their econo-mic ties.

But the Taiwanese delegation said it was not authorised to accept the proposal.

China also wanted the restrictions on Taiwanese investments on the mainland as well as Chinese imports to Taiwan to be eased, but the other party said it was not able to do this yet.

The Taiwanese delegation, on the other hand, wanted a pact to provide legal protection for Taiwanese investments and businesses in China. The China delegation was unwilling to give this until direct China-Taiwan trade links were established.

Despite the disagreement, three pacts will be signed at the NOL Building today between Mr Wang Daohan, chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (Arats), and Mr Koo Chen-fu, who heads Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

The three pacts concern the setting up of formal contacts, authentication of documents and verification of lost mail.

A joint statement to summarise the agreement reached between the two parties at the talks, which began on Tuesday, would be endorsed by the delegation leaders.

If not for the disagreement, the joint statement would have been signed at the closing ceremony yesterday afternoon. It was postponed to this morning.

Arrangements for the talks to be extended by an extra day were made by officials from the two sides at the start of the meeting, which was the highest-level contact between China and Taiwan since 1949.

Officials from both sides told reporters yesterday that the contents of the joint statement were in dispute and more time was therefore needed for them to thrash out their differences.

The document, to be called the Wang-Koo Talks joint statement, will also spell out the programmes to be carried out by officials of the two sides to improve bilateral relations.

These included common measures to be taken against illegal immigration, smuggling activities, violation of intellectual property rights and actions to resolve fishing disputes between their peoples.

Also spelt out in the document were programmes to promote scientific, youth and media exchanges.

But details on economic co-operation, which was high on the agenda of their talks here, were not included because of the disagreement between them yesterday.

An economic meeting between Arats and SEF officials scheduled to take place later this year has been put on hold because of this.

The atmosphere at the talks between Mr Wang and Mr Koo yesterday was said to be tense when the two men arrived at the conference 30 minutes late and left abruptly after only half an hour of discussion.

Their deputies, Arats vice-chairman Tang Shubei and SEF secretary-general Cheyne Chiu, continued the talks till about 6 pm.

At a press briefing soon after they concluded their meeting, Mr Tang said: "Though we have disagreements on several economic issues, both sides still recognise the need for economic co-operation for mutual benefits.

"What we cannot agree now, I hope we can continue to discuss at our future meetings."

He maintained that the signing of the three agreements, particularly the one formalising regular and official contacts between Arats and SEF officials, was a significant breakthrough in the talks.

At a separate press conference, Mr Chiu said their differences arose after China called for direct trade, postal and transportation links.

The Taiwanese delegation did not have the mandate to discuss the issue, it was learnt, and had called Taipei frequently for directions during the two days of negotiations.

A tired Mr Chiu said: "Taking the totality of what we have achieved, I think we can say this meeting is in the black and not in the red."

The postponement of the closing ceremony has delayed Mr Koo's return to Taipei. He leaves tomorrow instead of this morning.

Mr Wang, who will be meeting Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong tomorrow, is flying home on Sunday.