Working Groups Established for ECFA Implementation

Signed in the city of Chongqing in southwestern mainland China on 29 June 2010, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan (Republic of China) and mainland China (People’s Republic of China) aims to overcome barriers to trade between the two parties. At the time of signing, the agreement was seen as a huge step in bridging the gap between the two sides that had been created by the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

Although trade has continued between China and Taiwan over the years, there is great potential for increased bilateral trade. Last month the Economic Cooperation Committee was launched to deal with issues raised by the ECFA. On Tuesday this week delegates from Taiwan and China met in northern Taiwan to discuss the findings of the Committee and agree on a process for moving forward in developing trade relations.

The meeting was declared as having been “very fruitful” by chief Taiwanese negotiator Liang Kuo-hsin, the Deputy Economic Minister of Taiwan. China’s Deputy Commerce Minister, and representative at the historic meeting, Jiang Zengwei, commented to the press that exchanging liaison offices would assist in normalizing economic ties between Taiwan and China. Noting that the main aim of the discussions was to set up a framework for the operation of the Economic Cooperation Committee, six working groups will be set up to allow industrial and trade associations from Taiwan and mainland China to exchange representative offices.

It is anticipated that members of three of the six working groups, that of Services, Goods, and Dispute Settlement, will most likely hold their first meeting in March. The remaining three working groups will focus on Customs, Cooperation in Industry, and Investment Protection, with the latter group likely to be top of the agenda when chief negotiators from both groups meet later this year.

Although there are opposing views as to the benefits of increased contact between Taiwan and China, there is no doubt that trade between the two sides is increasing rapidly. In 2010, trade between China and Taiwan totaled $145.3 billion, representing an increase of 36.9 percent over 2009. With increased cooperation and the establishment of the Economic Cooperation Committee, there is every reason to expect continued growth in trade between Taiwan and China.