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China and Taiwan agree deals on trade

22 December 09 09:43 GMT

China and Taiwan have signed the latest in a series of economic deals, amid some disquiet on the island at their ever-closer relationship.

Chen Yunlin, China's top Taiwan envoy, agreed the deals with his Taiwanese counterpart on the second day of his four-day visit to the island.

His trip comes as Taiwan debates how close a relationship it wants with its former rival, China.

The two have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Beijing still claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan has led a rapprochement with China since he took over last year, and the two governments hope to sign a free-trade pact by early next year.

The Taipei government says Taiwan will be marginalised by China in global trade if it does not sign the agreement.

But critics fear a free-trade pact will flood Taiwan with cheap Chinese products, cause massive job losses and undermine the island's sovereignty by making it too economically dependent on China.

Losing popularity

Chen Yunlin arrived in Taiwan on Monday, for four days of talks on the proposed Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

Mr Chen hailed improving cross-strait ties, but said he respected people's right to protest against his visit.

Mr Ma's pro-China stance at one time had a lot of support from the Taiwanese people, but his mishandling of the response to a devastating typhoon in August and other accusations of mistaken policies have dented his popularity.

Analysts say more people are now beginning to doubt his argument that closer economic ties with China will aid Taiwanese prosperity.

Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party - which supports formal independence from China - made huge gains in recent local elections.

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