First Chinese minister in Taiwan since sweeping trade pact

TAIPEI, September 26, 2010 (AFP) - The highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan since a historic trade pact came into effect is expected to meet the island's finance minister this week, reports said on Sunday.

Chen Jian, a vice minister of commerce, led a delegation to Taipei Saturday and is scheduled to visit Taiwan's Finance Minister Lee Sush-der this week, the Commercial Times said.

"The most important thing of the trip is how to help mainland businesses make investments in Taiwan after ECFA (Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement) came into effect," Chen was quoted as saying Saturday.

Taiwan and its former bitter rival China signed the ECFA in June, conferring preferential tariffs between the sides.

It has been widely characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation between Beijing and Taipei, who split after the end of a civil war in 1949.

Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party has hailed the ECFA, saying it will bolster the island's economy, but the anti-China Democratic Progressive Party and its allies claim it will undermine its de facto independence.

Although Taiwan and China have been governed separately for more than six decades, Beijing considers the island part of its territory and has vowed to get it back, by force if necessary.