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Thousands protest in Taipei against China trade deal

Thousands of protesters in Taiwan have condemned a new trade pact with long-time rival China, fearing a Chinese takeover but Taiwan's government says the agreement will allow the country to "compete fairly" in China with other South Asian countries.


AFP - Taiwan's government on Sunday defended a new trade pact with arch-rival China after tens of thousands of protesters condemned the deal as a betrayal of the self-governing island's interests.

At the mass protest in Taipei on Saturday, demonstrators said the trade pact would cost Taiwan thousands of jobs and was part of Beijing's efforts to pull the island back under mainland control.

But Chiang Pin-kung, Taiwan's chief China envoy, insisted the pact to be signed on Tuesday in the western Chinese city of Chongqing would yield far-reaching benefits to the export-driven Taiwanese economy.

"This agreement will grant the Taiwan economy a transitional opportunity for further growth," Chiang told reporters on the eve of his departure for Chongqing.

"With the agreement, Taiwan will be able to compete fairly with Southeast Asian countries in China," Chiang said, noting a free-trade agreement (FTA) between China and Southeast Asia that went into effect this year.

The envoy said the "Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" with China would enable isolated Taiwan to tap into existing FTAs such as the pact with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Many of the barriers to the signing of an FTA between Taiwan and other countries will be reduced after ECFA is inked," Chiang said.

Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory, although the island has governed itself since 1949 following a Chinese civil war.

The ECFA will lead to preferential tariffs for 539 Taiwanese product categories in areas stretching from petrochemicals to textiles, while applying to only about half as many Chinese items.

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