It will be very difficult to sign an investment protection agreement in the next round of cross-strait talks scheduled for this month, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen--shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday.
Taiwan had been hoping to sign an investment protection agreement and a medical cooperation agreement with China this month following the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between the two sides in June.
“The two sides could not agree on a mechanism for settling -investment disputes and are still in talks on that aspect [of the agreement],” Shih said in a meeting of the legislature’s Economic Committee. “It will be very difficult to seal the deal in this round of negotiations.”
With trade and investment activities across the Taiwan Strait growing amid warming bilateral ties, trade and investment disputes have also increased. According to the Straits Exchange Foundation’s (SEF) statistics, 3,969 complaints related to trade disputes have been filed by China-based Taiwanese businesses from 1991 to September this year.
The dispute settlement mechanism cannot be routed through the WTO, which only deals with bilateral matters, or through the World Bank, because Taiwan is not a World Bank member, Shih said.
The two sides failed to reach a consensus in the working group meetings on whether the mechanism should be included in the investment protection agreement, given that the mechanism will be regulated in one of the four follow-up agreements, Shih told legislators.
“It’s more than likely that the mechanism will be established under the proposed cross-strait economic cooperation committee,” which would consist of Taiwanese and Chinese government officials to handle bilateral economic exchanges related to the ECFA, Shih said.
The sixth round of cross-strait negotiations will reportedly be held on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17 in Taipei, but both Shih and Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Kao Charng (高長) declined to confirm the date.