HK set to finalize ASEAN trade deal
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”.
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.