Taiwan’s top China negotiator says the two sides will sign a deal to provide legal protection for Taiwanese investments on the mainland in early 2011.

Chiang Pin-kung’s statement on Monday comes amid Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s intensive efforts to forge closer China trade ties, the hallmark of his 2 1/2 year presidency.

The investment protection deal was supposed to be inked late last year but a dispute over the possible inclusion of international arbiters to settle disputes held it up.

Mr. Chiang also said that upcoming Taiwanese presidential elections in 2012 could slow the pace of cross-strait economic progress, without specifying why.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China still claims the island as part of its territory.

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