China and Taiwan Continue to Strengthen Trading Ties

Having won the country’s elections with 51.5 percent of votes cast, Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou will continue to push for the strengthening of ties between his country and mainland China. It was under Ma Ying-jeou’s leadership that the two parties agreed in 2008 to end the ban on air, sea and postal links that had been put in place when Taiwan broke away from the People’s Republic of China. The response to the lifting of these travel bans was very positive, with an estimated 1.3 million Chinese tourists flocking to Taiwan in 2010. Currently up to 550 flights travel between China’s mainland and Taiwan each week, and bilateral trade has reached US$150 billion.

In a recent interview, Chinese Premier Wu Den-yih revealed that authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are working toward signing an “investment protection” agreement to improve bilateral trading relations. He also noted that the two side are using international arbitration principles to reach consensus on a few issues, expressing the hope that it would not take too long to reach an agreement and that the signing of the agreement may take place during cross-strait talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) based in Taipei and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATA), based in Beijing, scheduled for later this year. Since Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou was elected to office in 2008, there have been a series of moves to gradually relax cross-strait trading and investment regulations.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, Shen Danyang, noted in a news conference on January 18 that, although it is likely that trade in the first quarter will be difficult, it is anticipated that China’s import/export business will experience what he termed as a “stable and modest growth”. He further added that China’s policy incentives, along with the fact that the country has relatively cheap labor available, will aid exporters in their efforts to remain competitive, thereby assisting China’s economy – which is currently the second largest in the world – to achieve its goals in trade growth. It is the aim of China’s trade authorities to increase foreign trade by approximately ten percent in 2012, which is lower than 2011, but growth nonetheless.