Hu Jintao meets with Taiwanese National Party chairman, hails new trade pact

BEIJING (AP) — President Hu Jintao hailed a historic trade pact between China and Taiwan on Monday when he met with the chairman of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party, saying it signals progress on their deepening ties.

Hu told Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung during his visit that the trade deal signed last month is an "important achievement" that helps reach the two sides' goal of "peaceful development of relations."

Footage of their meeting was aired on the evening news by national broadcaster China Central Television.

Last month, negotiators for China and Taiwan signed a trade deal that slashes tariffs on a wide range of products, pushing their economies closer together and further easing political hostilities across the Taiwan Strait.

The threat of military conflict has lingered since Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, but in recent years, the tensions have eased under the policy of rapprochement taken by Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou.

Under his tenure, regular air and sea links have resumed after a hiatus of 60 years and restrictions on Chinese investment in Taiwan have been lifted.

"As long as the exchanges and consultations are made on an equal footing, relations will be pushed forward and a feasible method could be found for a gradual settlement of the problems constraining the cross-straits relations," Hu said.

In the meeting, Wu passed on a message to Hu from Ma, who called for closer ties following the signing of the trade pact. The deal, formally known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, is expected to boost bilateral trade, which already totals $110 billion a year.