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China postpones free trade talks with Taiwan

February 5, 2010

February 4, 2010

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China has postponed a second
round of free trade talks with Taiwan until after
the Lunar New Year holiday and the Taiwanese side
downplayed any political reason for the delay.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement
(ECFA), which the export-reliant island hopes to
sign in the first half of this year, could lower
tariffs and increase investment across the
Straits as well as opening the door for Taiwan to
press ahead with free trade agreements with Southeast Asian nations.

The second round of negotiations will be delayed
until late February or early March as Beijing has
said there is "no way" to send negotiators to the
island earlier, the Taipei-based China Times newspaper reported on Thursday.

Taiwan's China policymaking body confirmed the
estimated dates but said they did not represent a delay in talks.

Taiwan's acceptance of a $6.4 billion package of
U.S. weapons has had no effect on trade talks
despite Beijing's outrage toward Washington, said
a media relations officer at Taiwan's Mainland
Affairs Office, a government body.

U.S.-China tensions are on the rise over trade
and currency imbalances, with the Taiwan and
Tibet issues an additional irritant, but Beijing
has kept the gloves on in its dealings with
Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang or Nationalist Party,
to avoid alienating the Taiwanese public.

In preliminary meetings late last month, Taiwan
and China had pledged to accelerate negotiations for ECFA.

An official at China's Taiwan Affairs Office said
her agency had "no related information so far" about a postponement.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings and Huang Yan,
writing by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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