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China's Hu Praises Taiwan Trade Deal as 'Important Achievement'

Chinese President Hu Jintao has praised a landmark trade deal with Taiwan as an "important achievement" in the peaceful development of relations between the long-time rivals.

Mr. Hu was speaking Monday in Beijing during a meeting with the honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, Wu Poh-hsiung.

The Chinese president expressed hope that the trade deal signed last month will take effect as soon as possible to bring what he called substantial benefits to both sides.

In the meeting, Wu passed on a message to Mr. Hu from Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, in which Mr. Ma also called for closer relations across the Taiwan Strait.

The trade pact will reduce or eliminates tariffs on hundreds of products traded by the two sides. It is their most significant economic agreement since they split in a civil war in 1949.

The deal known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement was signed in the southern Chinese city of Chongqing.

Taiwan's official CNA news agency quotes the island's economics ministry as saying it expects lawmakers to approve the agreement and send it to President Ma next month. It says the deal is likely to take effect in September.

Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party objects to the agreement, fearing it will undermine the island's self-rule and economy. Thousands of people took to the streets of Taipei to protest the deal.

Supporters of the pact in Taiwan say it will ensure the island does not become economically marginalized as China's global power grows.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Xinhua