Taipei and Beijing signed an agreement on medical and health cooperation yesterday, with officials saying they hoped to ink an accord on investment protection in the first half of next year, when the next round of high-level talks are held.
Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said that while the investment protection pact couldn’t be signed this time because of the complexity of the issue, it has been placed on the agenda for his next meeting with Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) in China. He also said he will still meet Chen twice a year, but the scheduling and locations would be more flexible.
The two sides agreed to continue negotiations on the definition of investors, treatment of investors, convenience of investment, expropriation of property, compensation for loss or transfer of property, investment dispute settlement and more.
Since the “early harvest” program of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will take effect on Jan. 1, Chiang said subsequent ECFA deals on commodity trade, service trade and a dispute-resolving mechanism would also be placed on the meeting agendas as soon as they are ready to be signed.
Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) also said no possibilities have been ruled out for cross-strait exchanges, including a cultural deal, something Beijing has previously expressed an interest in.
However, he emphasized the importance of communication, saying an agreement would be signed when the time was right, but there was no timetable.
Meanwhile, ARATS Deputy Chairman Zheng Lizhong (鄭立中) urged the two sides to launch negotiations on science, education and culture as soon as possible.
The medical and health cooperation pact covers four areas: prevention of infectious diseases, the management and development of drug safety, emergency rescue operations and the study of Chinese medicine and its safety management.
In a bid to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, Taipei and Beijing will regularly exchange information.
They will establish a mechanism to exchange information about drugs and jointly crack down on counterfeit drugs. They will join forces to ensure drug safety and quality follow international standards. The two sides will also cooperate in clinical testing of new drugs.
Since more than 90 percent of Taiwan’s Chinese herbal medicines are imported from China, Chinese exporters must produce certification to prove the safety of their products and the safety checks must meet international standards.
The products will undergo three rounds of inspection — at the manufacturer, at customs and random inspections when they are marketed.
The two sides also agreed it was necessary to establish an institutionalized mechanism to examine the implementation of the 15 agreements and two consensuses both sides have reached thus far.
Turning to cross-strait travel, Taiwan agreed to add 122 flights during the Lunar New Year holiday, while China agreed to raise the daily quota of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan from 3,000 to 4,000, beginning on Jan. 1.
China also agreed to allow individual travelers to visit Taiwan on a trial basis, starting with residents of certain big cities in the first half of next year. The individual traveler trial could begin around the Lantern Festival, Kao Koong-lian said.