Taiwan’s president affirms China trade pact that has sparked mass protests

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WASHINGTON – Taiwan’s president is sticking by a trade pact with China that has sparked mass protests and a three-week occupation of the self-governing island legislature building by students.

The protest, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of people, is the most serious challenge yet to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (MAH YING-jow) policy of moving democratic Taiwan economically closer to China.

Ma said students will start leaving the assembly hall Thursday.

He said there needs to be more public education on the benefits of the pact, which would allow Taiwanese and Chinese service companies like banks to open branches or shops within the other’s boundaries. Ma said it would Taiwan’s readiness to open its markets so it can integrate more into the regional economy.

Ma spoke Wednesday by webcast to a Washington think-tank .

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