ASEAN, China's Hong Kong to sign free trade agreement in November
MANILA/HONG KONG, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- The 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) are to sign in November the ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) and the ASEAN-Hong Kong Investment Agreement (AHKIA), according to a joint statement on Saturday.
The agreements were reached during the ASEAN economic ministers-Hong Kong consultations, co-chaired by HKSAR government's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau and Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez, in Pasay City, the Philippines.
The agreements will be signed on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN summit in the Philippines in November.
"The signing of these agreements bodes well for both regional and national business communities particularly for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This will also send a positive signal to the international community of ASEAN's resolute commitment to free trade and open markets," said Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo.
Rodolfo said the Philippines will tremendously benefit from the two agreements. "These agreements would level up our already vibrant trade and investments relations as this would mean increased market access for Filipinos exporters," Rodolfo said.
Rodolfo said the AHKFTA is the first FTA to be signed by the ASEAN over a period of about eight years. "That's why it's very significant that this happens during the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN and during the Philippine hosting."
The total merchandise trade between Hong Kong and ASEAN amounted to 106.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, and total services trade between the two sides was 15.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, according to statistics provided by the HKSAR government.
On investment, by end of 2015, ASEAN ranked the sixth among Hong Kong's destinations of outward direct investment, with a stock of 27.9 billion U.S. dollars, and it ranked the sixth among Hong Kong's sources of inward direct investment, with a stock of 71.1 billion U.S. dollars.
"ASEAN is a very important trading partner of Hong Kong. It was our second largest trading partner in merchandise trade in 2016 and the fourth largest in services trade in 2015," said Yau.
"Our economy stands to benefit from the FTA and the Investment Agreement, which will bring us more and better access to the ASEAN markets, create new business opportunities and further enhance trade and investment flows," he said.
He said the FTA will become effective after completion of the necessary procedures.
The FTA negotiations between Hong Kong and ASEAN commenced in July 2014.
According to the joint statement, the AHKFTA included a chapter on Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH), which would be implemented through an ECOTECH Work Program.
"This would provide opportunities for our MSMEs to work together through capacity building exercises, information sharing, and internship programs, among others," Rodolfo said.
The ECOTECH Work Program would be adopted when the two agreements are signed in November.