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Oct 23, 2008, No. 076

  • Date:2008-10-23

MAC and SEF announce schedule for second ‘Chiang-Chen Talks’ and vice chairman-level preparatory meetings

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Lai Shin-yuan and Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung jointly held a press conference on October 23, at which they announced that the second “Chiang-Chen Talks” are tentatively scheduled for November 3. They stated that, based on intensive consultations with the SEF’s mainland Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), chaired by Mr. Chen Yunlin, the SEF has recommended holding the talks on November 3, and the two sides have agreed to conduct vice chairman-level preparatory meetings on October 27 in mainland China’s Shenzhen City.

Minister Lai stressed that the MAC, the SEF, and pertinent government agencies have been engaged in meticulous planning and preparations for the upcoming talks since July. Following numerous SEF-ARATS exchanges concerning conference arrangements and negotiation topics, the SEF has suggested that November 3 would be the most suitable time for ARATS Chairman Chen’s visit to Taiwan, she said.

At the press conference, Minister Lai and Chairman Chiang reiterated that, since the new administration assumed office in May 2008, it has striven to resume the institutionalized cross-strait negotiations that had been suspended for a decade. The two sides have achieved considerable progress in their negotiations and communications on various topics, steadily building a foundation of mutual trust and constructive interaction. These developments, they added, have contributed significantly to easing longstanding tensions and fostering a more stable and harmonious cross-strait relationship, and have won wide affirmation at home and abroad.

Noting that the purpose of institutionalized negotiations is to resolve problems that have arisen in the cross-strait relationship, Minister Lai explained that the second Chiang-Chen Talks will focus on direct air routes, expansion of weekend passenger charter flights, cargo charter flights, direct shipping links, postal cooperation, and food safety.

Except for food safety, the Minister pointed out, all of these issues were topics of negotiation or preparations for negotiation undertaken by the previous Democratic Progressive Party-led administration, which was unable, however, to reach agreements on them during its eight years in office. Once agreements on these topics of concern have been signed and implemented thanks to the more favorable conditions created by the new administration, she said, they will facilitate the interactions between people in Taiwan and mainland China and save much time and expense for the movement of people and goods across the Strait.

Minister Lai explained that the SEF demanded that the issue of food safety and management be included on the agenda of the upcoming talks because imports of tainted milk powder from the Mainland have caused huge business losses and panic in Taiwan. The ARATS has consented to do so. Further, Chairman Chiang announced that the SEF will set up a complaints and claims center to provide services to the public in connection with the tainted milk powder.

Recently, some individuals have expressed concern over the timing of Mr. Chen’s visit. A melee also occurred when ARATS Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing was surrounded by protestors in Tainan several days ago. In this connection, SEF Chairman Chiang indicated that relevant government agencies will be tasked with protecting Mr. Chen so as to ensure that the second Chiang-Chen Talks will proceed without incident. Chiang further expressed confidence in the satisfactory conclusion of the talks and said that the SEF will do its utmost to safeguard the nation’s interests and dignity.

Finally, MAC Minister Lai stressed that opinion polls conducted in Taiwan reveal that over 60 percent of respondents support the holding of the second Chiang-Chen Talks, and the talks will be premised on the principles of parity and dignity. In addition, government officials of both sides will engage in direct dialogues and negotiations to resolve the various problems that have arisen in cross-strait exchanges. Minister Lai pointed out that Taiwan-centric identity and the welfare of the Taiwan people will not be compromised during the talks and urged the public to maintain a rational and pragmatic attitude toward the forthcoming round of talks.