China and Taiwan ink pact to liberalise services

China and Taiwan on Friday signed a pact to further open trade in services, the two sides said, the latest in a series of economic agreements reached against a backdrop of improved relations.

Ties between the mainland and Taiwan have improved significantly since the China-friendly Kuomintang party took power in 2008.

Under the new agreement, the mainland will open 80 of its service sectors to Taiwan companies, China's official Xinhua news agency said.

Taiwan will in turn allow Chinese investment in 64 service sectors, the island's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said.

Sectors covered include telecommunications, construction, distribution, environmental protection, health, tourism, entertainment, culture, sports, transportation and finance, the two sides said, but gave no specifics.

The heads of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Taiwan's SEF signed the agreement in Shanghai.

The pact is one of the follow-up agreements to the sweeping Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in 2010 to reduce trade barriers between China and Taiwan.

But Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticised the latest agreement, saying it would hurt Taiwan's smaller service companies.

Around 50 people representing Taiwan's publishing industry protested in Taipei on Friday, urging President Ma Ying-jeou to reject the agreement.

A senior DPP lawmaker, Ker Chien-ming, warned that the deal would hasten China's "cultural invasion" of Taiwan.

China and Taiwan also agreed to work on a programme to address freshwater shortages on Kinmen, an outlying island of Taiwan which lies just offshore from China's Fujian province.

China considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and Beijing has refused to renounce its use of military force should the island move towards independence.

The meeting in Shanghai on Friday marked the ninth round of high-level talks between the two since they resumed in 2008 after a nine-year suspension.