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Mainland spokeswoman defends cross-Strait service trade pact

BEIJING, June 26 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese mainland spokeswoman on Wednesday defended a mainland-Taiwan service trade pact signed last week, saying it is intended to maximize benefits for both sides' service providers, especially small- and medium-size Taiwanese firms.

Fan Liqing, a spokeswoman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, made the comments while answering a question at a regular press conference on Wednesday.

Some Taiwanese service providers have raised concerns that the agreement will have a negative impact on the island's service sectors.

Under the agreement which stipulates a lower market access threshold for service providers from both sides, the Chinese mainland will open 80 service sectors to Taiwan, while Taiwan will open 64 sectors to the mainland.

The spokeswoman said the mainland's openness to Taiwan in service sectors as described in the agreement is "unprecedented," including commerce, telecommunications, construction, distribution, environment, tourism, entertainment, culture, sports, transportation and finance.

It is the mainland's hope that the arrangement will bring more business opportunities for Taiwanese service providers and more tangible benefits for Taiwanese people, she said.

The service trade agreement is one of several follow-up agreements to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a comprehensive cross-Strait economic pact signed in 2010 to reduce tariffs and commercial barriers between the mainland and Taiwan.

Citing commercial ministry figures, Fan said that during the first four months of this year, cross-Strait trade value totaled 70.74 billion U.S. dollars, up 48.5 percent year on year.

Of that, the value of the mainland's imports from Taiwan was 56.75 billion U.S. dollars, up 51.7 percent year on year.

According to the early harvest program of the ECFA which already allows openness of certain service sectors, Taiwanese investors set up a total of 186 non-financial service enterprises, of them more than 60 percent small- and medium-size ones.

"The fact shows that the two-way openness in the service industry across the Taiwan Strait can bring service providers, especially those from Taiwan, more options, and meanwhile create more jobs," Fan said.

According to a special clause of "emergency negotiation" in the service trade pact, the mainland and Taiwan can negotiate whenever it is necessary for trouble shooting, an arrangement the spokeswoman said will help ease worries of some Taiwanese over the pact's impact on the island's service sectors.