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China and Taiwan issue in landmark trade pact

The leaders of China and Taiwan met to sign the trade agreement in September. Reuters/Tzu Chi Foundation

An historic trade deal between Taiwan and China came into effect on Sunday, bringing the two parties closer than at any point since their split more than six decades ago. The landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), signed in June, is the most sweeping pact ever reached between China and Taiwan.

The two regimes are officially still not at peace after the end of a civil war in 1949.

But both Taiwan and China say they're happy with the pact.

The agreement was passed last month by Taiwan's lawmakers without a single dissenting vote, though the opposition party boycotted the session.

Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, came to power in 2008 on a promise to improve the economy through a rapprochement with the mainland.

His administration has said the pact will create 260,000 jobs in the island's export-dependent economy and boost growth by up to 1.7 per cent.

China is Taiwan's largest trading partner, its largest investment destination, and now also home to a growing number of Taiwanese.

It is estimated that about one million people from the island live on the mainland, many of them in the Shanghai area.

Under the deal, 539 Taiwanese products will be sold to China at preferential tariffs, and in some cases zero tariffs. That's 16 percent of total exports to China.

At the same time, only about 267 Chinese items, or 10.5 per cent of China's export value to Taiwan, will enjoy zero or falling tariffs.