TAIPEI, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said Monday that negotiating and signing a wide-ranging economic pact with the Chinese mainland was "absolutely necessary" and "needs to be done quickly."
Ma made the remarks here when attending a gathering for Taiwan business people with business on the mainland. The gathering was held to mark Chinese Spring Festival by the island's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), an organization authorized to handle cross-Strait issues.
The principle idea of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was to "help people do business and raise Taiwan's competitiveness," Ma said in his 35-minutes-long speech.
ECFA is a wide-ranging economic pact to further normalize trade and investment ties across the Taiwan Strait, which Ma hopes to sign with the mainland this year to help fuel Taiwan's economic revival.
The Chinese mainland is Taiwan's biggest trade partner, with an annual trade volume exceeding 100 billion U.S. dollars for the last two years.
Given the huge amount of trade, a systematic mechanism was needed to solve problems when they arose between the two sides, according to Ma.
Signing ECFA would help create 260,000 jobs in Taiwan, Ma said citing a local research institution.
He also urged efforts to help the general public to know more about ECFA, especially low-income residents, people who work in small and medium-sized enterprises and those living in central and southern Taiwan.
ECFA negotiations have no fixed schedule. The only round of talks so far were held in Beijing on Jan. 26. The proposed agreement mainly includes reducing tariffs, guaranteeing investment and protecting intellectual property.
Economic ties between the mainland and Taiwan have warmed in recent years, with direct air and sea transport links and postal services, as well as regular passenger charter flights connecting the island with the mainland.