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Countdown to ECFA

  CHONGQING/TAIPEI, June 27 (Xinhua) -- A delegation led by Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Chiang Pin-kung will leave for southwest China's Chongqing municipality Monday for a new round of cross-Strait talks, during which the much-anticipated Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) is scheduled to be completed between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

  Chiang told a news conference in Taipei Sunday that the signing of ECFA would profoundly influence Taiwan's economy, particularly in trade and investments, as well as the development of relations between Taiwan and the mainland.

  He also said he expected a positive change in the continuing development of Taiwan's economy after the signing of the ECFA.

  The fifth round of talks between top negotiators of the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and SEF, since they resumed talks in 2008, will be held on Tuesday.

  Apart from the ECFA, the two sides also plan to sign an agreement on intellectual property rights and protection during the talks.

  According to the schedule, the two sides will hold a vice-chairman level preparatory discussion on Monday afternoon.

  After Tuesday's talks, Wang Yi, head of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, will meet the SEF negotiators.

  Bo Xilai, secretary of the Chongqing municipal committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), will also meet the representatives from both sides on Wednesday morning.

  The SEF delegation is scheduled to leave Chongqing on Wednesday afternoon.

  The event has attracted about 270 journalists from 102 media organizations around the world, including 33 from the mainland, 35 from Taiwan, 15 from Hong Kong and Macao, and 19 from foreign countries, according to the Taiwan Affairs Office.

  The idea of reaching a cross-Strait economic pact has been considered during an extended period.

  The pact can be dated back to April 2005 when Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, and Lien Chan, then-chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) Party in Taiwan, jointly issued "common aspiration and prospects for cross-Strait peace and development" in Beijing.

  In the document, the two parties proposed to jointly promote all-around economic exchanges between the mainland and Taiwan and establish a cross-Strait economic cooperation mechanism.

  Since then, progressive residents on the two sides have constantly called for signing an agreement to set up mechanisms and normalize economic relations.

  On Dec. 31, 2008, Hu Jintao delivered a speech at a meeting in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan," in which he clearly outlined that the mainland and Taiwan could sign a "comprehensive economic cooperation agreement" and build a unique mechanism to achieve very significant mutual benefits .

  In December 2009, leaders of the ARATS and SEF held their fourth round of talks in Taichung in Taiwan and exchanged opinions on negotiating and signing the ECFA. They also agreed to focus on the topic in their fifth round of talks this year.

  The ARATS and SEF have held three rounds of expert-level talks on the ECFA since January.

  Additionally, the two side completed the final details of the pact at a preparatory consultation in Taiwan on June 24.

  Zhang Guanhua, deputy director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said "The signing of the ECFA is the inevitable result of more than 20 years of still-expanding economic and trade exchanges across the Strait."

  "The pact will lay a solid foundation for the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations," he said.

  Since June 2008, when regular talks between the SEF and ARATS resumed, the two sides had held four rounds of talks, respectively, in Beijing, Taipei, Nanjing and Taichung.

  The talks brought about several agreements regarding, among other things: mainlanders visiting Taiwan, cross-Strait shipping, air transportation, cooperation in the fight against crime, mutual legal assistance, labor cooperation in the fishing industry, and cooperation in inspection and quarantine of agricultural products.