Taiwan, China, Seal Deals on Medical Cooperation, Tourism

Senior officials from China and Taiwan signed an agreement Tuesday calling for closer cooperation in controlling epidemics and developing new drugs.

They also announced after a one-day meeting in Taipei that an additional 1,000 Chinese tourists per day will be allowed to visit Taiwan. The change, effective January 1, will bring the visitor quota to 4,000 a day.

The sides announced progress but no agreement on a proposed investment protection agreement.

The meeting was the latest in a series of negotiations that are intended to ease tensions between China and Taiwan as much as provide economic benefits to both sides. Taiwan's chief delegate, Chiang Pin-kung, said Tuesday that the regular talks "guarantee peace and prosperity" on either side of the Taiwan Strait.

The two sides in June signed a breakthrough trade agreement that slashed tariffs on thousands of items and opened the door for Taiwan to seek trade agreements with other countries.

However some pro-independence Taiwan residents worry that the economic ties will hasten the day when Taiwan is reunified with the mainland. Small groups of protesters appeared outside Tuesday's talks and threatened to follow chief Chinese negotiator Chen Yunlin throughout his visit.

The agreement on medical cooperation provides for the exchange of information about epidemics between Taiwan and China, reducing the risk that increased visitor exchanges will allow epidemics to spread.

The two will also work together to develop new vaccines and conduct clinical trials of new drugs. Access to mainland markets is expected to benefit Taiwan's pharmaceutical industry.