HK set to fi­nal­ize ASEAN trade deal

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By LUO WEITENG in Hong Kong sophia@chindai­lyhk.com

Hong Kong is pre­par­ing the fi­nal touches to its long-an­tic­i­pated free trade deal with As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) mem­bers in its quest for a cat­a­lyst to boost re­gional trade and investment flows.

“Hong Kong has been work­ing in­ten­sively with ASEAN partners on the Hong KongASEAN Free Trade Agree­ment (FTA) with a view to com­plete it very soon,” Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said at the Hong Kong Sum­mit on Tues­day.

The much-awaited FTA, on which ne­go­ti­a­tions once came to a dead­lock and missed dead­lines af­ter rounds of talks since 2014, will “strengthen eco­nomic ties be­tween ASEAN and Hong Kong by fa­cil­i­tat­ing the flow of goods, ser­vices and in­vest­ments”, Lam said.

“When com­pleted, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and the FTA, cou­pled with CEPA (Closer Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Ar­range­ment), would pro­vide a solid plat­form to fa­cil­i­tate trade and investment among Hong Kong and ASEAN coun­tries. It will also help un­leash Hong Kong’s full po­ten­tial as a hub for in­ter­na­tional trade and investment,” she reck­oned.

In a sign of the “im­por­tance that Hong Kong at­taches to ASEAN re­gion and the bi­lat­eral col­lab­o­ra­tion”, Lam told the sum­mit she would make the ASEAN re­gion the des­ti­na­tion of her very first of­fi­cial over­seas visit in her ca­pac­ity as Hong Kong’s leader.

“While the FTA ne­go­ti­a­tion is en­ter­ing its fi­nal stage, I be­lieve that, by the time it comes into ef­fect, it will help Hong Kong up­hold its unique role even more ef­fec­tively and ex­pand the scope of eco­nomic and trade co­op­er­a­tion within the re­gion in a way that will ben­e­fit all of us,” Chair­man of the Chi­nese Gen­eral Cham­ber of Com­merce Jonathan Choi Koon-shum said at the sum­mit.

The ASEAN bloc now stands as Hong Kong’s sec­ond-largest trad­ing part­ner, next only to the Chi­nese main­land, and the fourth-largest ex­port mar­ket of Hong Kong be­hind the main­land, Euro­pean Union and United States, as data from the Hong Kong Trade and Devel­op­ment Coun­cil showed.

Over the first nine months of last year, the to­tal trade be­tween Hong Kong and ASEAN ex­ceeded $77 bil­lion. Some five ASEAN economies are now among top 20 trad­ing partners of Hong Kong.

By the first half of last year, about 547 ASEAN com­pa­nies had a pres­ence in Hong Kong, accounting for roughly 6.8 per­cent of the for­eign com­pa­nies in the ter­ri­tory. Among them, 54 com­pa­nies have their re­gional head­quar­ters in Hong Kong, 136 set up re­gional of­fices and 357 opened their lo­cal of­fices in the city.

Last year, 12 per­cent of trade be­tween ASEAN and the main­land, with a value of more than $54 bil­lion, was routed through Hong Kong, un­der­scor­ing the city’s un­par­al­leled po­si­tion as a hub of lo­gis­tics, com­merce, trade and finance in the re­gion.

Billed as one of the ma­jor events com­mem­o­rat­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of Hong Kong’s re­turn to the moth­er­land, the Hong Kong Sum­mit this year — its third ses­sion — has drawn heavy­weight reg­u­la­tors, pol­i­cy­mak­ers and mar­ket play­ers from the main­land, Hong Kong and ASEAN coun­tries to of­fer their in­sights on re­gional sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.

The one-day event opened on Tues­day with the theme of “Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Hong Kong and East Asia: In­no­vat­ing new ideas and em­brac­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties”.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor deliev­ers her open­ing speech at the Hong Kong Sum­mit on Tues­day, which fo­cused on re­gional co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Hong Kong and East Asia.

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