Former Commerce Minister Chen Deming was elected president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) on Friday.
"Deepening economic cooperation remains a priority for cross-Strait negotiations at the current stage," the mainland's new top negotiator said at the first meeting of the new ARATS council.
The ARATS' counterpart in Taiwan, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), elected Lin Join-sane as its head in September, replacing Chiang Pin-kung.
Economic development on both sides of the Taiwan Strait faces a number of challenges, which makes it more urgent to promote the normalization of cross-Strait economic ties and further trade liberalization, said Chen.
Chen said efforts will be made to start the new round of cross-Strait talks in the first half of this year and sign an agreement on the services trade.
He said he hopes to finish negotiations on the goods trade and a dispute settlement mechanism within this year.
The ARATS will also strive to accelerate follow-up talks on the back of the signing of the landmark Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in 2010, which has greatly boosted cross-Strait ties in an all-around way, according to Chen.
Chen said he appreciates Taiwanese authorities' stance that cross-Strait ties are not ties between two countries, thus the representative offices of the SEF and the ARATS to be established on each side are not diplomatic missions.
The ARATS also hopes to strengthen communications with the SEF on handling important affairs, he said.
He also said the ARATS encourages discussions of political issues among academics and relevant personnel from the two sides.
Chen served as Minister of Commerce from December 2007 to March 2013.
State Councilor Yang Jiechi also said at the meeting that political dialogues among civilians across the strait are encouraged to create conditions for settling political divergence through negotiation and injecting new vigor for promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties.
Yang said the mainland hopes the two sides adhere to the common grounds of opposing "Taiwan independence" and following the "1992 consensus," and enhance the common recognition of safeguarding the "one China" framework.
He said the two sides should continue to improve relations and solve problems concerning the people of both sides through negotiation.
Negotiation should be expanded covering issues concerning culture, education, technology and society, said Yang.
Founded in 1990 and 1991, respectively, the SEF and the ARATS are the non-governmental organizations authorized by Taiwan and the mainland to engage in cross-Strait talks.
Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body, met with representatives of the new ARATS council.
On behalf of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and President Xi Jinping, Yu praised the positive role the ARATS has played in promoting cross-Strait negotiations and improving mainland-Taiwan relations.
Yu said he hopes the new ARATS council will consolidate the political foundation of cross-Strait negotiation based on the central authorities' policies and guidelines toward Taiwan and focus on promoting the institutionalization of the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
He urged the completion of follow-up negotiations after the signing of the ECFA, push the SEF and ARATS to establish representative offices on each side and accelerate the negotiation and signing of cross-Strait technological and educational agreements.
He also urged the ARATS to make efforts in promoting cross-Strait exchanges and cooperations and safeguarding the interests of the people on both sides.
The SEF's Lin Join-sane sent a congratulatory letter to Chen on Friday.
Lin said in the letter that he hopes the two organizations accelerate the negotiation and signing of other agreements after the signing of the ECFA, and let more people on both sides share the benefits brought by peace across the strait. Endi