The first Cross-strait Economic and Trade Forum, postponed from dates in August and September in Taipei due to a politically sensitive situation between Taiwan and China's mainland, finally began April 14 in Beijing.
Attended by over 400 people including officials from the Communist Party of China (CPC), Kuomintang (KMT), People First Party and New Party, as well as economic experts and business people, the two-day-long forum closed with seven-point joint proposals and 15 new policies for the Chinese mainland to promote economic and trade relations across the Taiwan Strait.
"These policies, along with the consensus reached at the forum, are more than what we expected," said Chinese KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan, who headed a KMT delegation, at a press conference after the forum. KMT Vice Chairman Wu Po-hsiung said at the forum's closing ceremony that with these policies, the Taiwanese people will feel the sincerity of the mainland.
The policy package was announced by Chen Yunlin, Director of the Taiwan Work Office of the CPC Central Committee. It covers issues related to Taiwan's agricultural and aquatic products, cross-strait agricultural cooperation, recognition of university diplomas issued in Taiwan, visits between mainlanders and Taiwanese, and Taiwanese becoming customs agents and being engaged in medical services on the mainland.
Among the 15 policies, seven are related to agriculture and fishery, which, according to a commentary published in Hong Kong-based Ming Pao newspaper, may shake Chen Shuibian's base of supporters in the southern part of Taiwan and also match up with the mainland's plan of building a "new socialist countryside."
The Ming Pao article also noted that the mainland presented this gift on the eve of President Hu Jintao's U.S. state visit, trying to convey to the United States that it has the sincerity to promote cross-strait economic and trade relations, as well as communication.
Indeed, the 15 new policies were well received by participants of the forum, many of whom considered them very positive. Winston Chang, President of the Xuzhou Association of Taiwanese-invested Enterprises, said that with the mainland's recognition of university diplomas issued in Taiwan, graduates of Taiwan will be able to work as professionals on the mainland, which is a great benefit for Taiwanese youth with relatively few opportunities after graduation.
Xie Kungzong, President of the Beijing Association of Taiwanese-invested Enterprises, said he thought highly of the measure that Taiwan visitors may receive necessary documents from mainland hospitals and clinics for conveniences such as reporting medical expenditure upon returning home. He said this will greatly improve the life of Taiwanese businesspeople on the mainland.
The Cross-strait Economic and Trade Forum, jointly organized by institutions under the CPC and the KMT, is a key part of the five common aspirations and prospects agreed upon by General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Hu Jintao and the then KMT Chairman Lien Chan last April, and is also an important activity for the two parties to continue communication, according to Li Bingcai, Deputy Director of the Taiwan Work Office of the CPC Central Committee.
Li announced the seven-point joint proposals, reached after two days of discussions on how to further implement negotiation results achieved by the CPC and KMT during the past year.
The joint proposals suggest the promotion of cross-strait direct transport, agricultural, financial and economic exchanges, and cooperation and visits of mainlanders to Taiwan.
The proposals stated that the mainland will make the financing of small and medium-sized Taiwan-invested enterprises more convenient, encourage and support service industries from Taiwan to enter the mainland market and also urge Taiwan's leaders to let financial institutions from the mainland set up branch offices in Taiwan.
At the closing ceremony, Vice Chairman of the KMT Wu Po-hsiung asked Taiwan, led by the Democratic Progressive Party, to implement the proposals put forward by this forum.
KMT legislator Ho Tsai-feng, who participated in the forum as a people's representative, said she and 32 other KMT legislators attending this forum will bring the consensus and feedback back to Taiwan. She said she was quite confident in the realization of the consensus, as Taiwan's leaders have already been "less intransigent" under pressure from opposition parties and legislators.
Direct flights across the Taiwan Strait at fixed dates and fixed destinations have been put into plan, Ho Tsai-feng said, although these flights haven't yet begun. Fixed dates previously referred to the Spring Festival, for example, but now these dates will be expanded to include more festivals and holidays, and even Western festivals, Ho explained.
Sean Lien, Managing Commissioner of the KMT Central Committee, also expressed his confidence in the consensus reached in this forum. "Some people said that the conclusion of this forum does not have the power of execution. Wrong. At least, it will pose a huge pressure on the Taiwan authorities," Lien opined.
Another KMT legislator, Ting Shou-chung, expressed the same hope as Ho, that the realization of the joint proposals would not take long, as "to grab the [potential] achievements [of this forum], the Democratic Progressive Party had already taken some oaths before the opening of this forum." Ting said the legislators will continue to push for direct transport across the Taiwan Strait. He also said he hoped the mainland would come out with more detailed measures in terms of cross-strait communications and exchanges.