Asean, Hong Kong sign free trade deal
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) finally signed on Sunday a free trade and investment agreement on the sidelines of the 31st Asean summit in the country.
The two parties signed the Asean-Hong Kong, China Investment Agreement (AHKIA) and the Asean-Hong Kong, China free trade agreement (AHKFTA), marking the first free trade deal signed by the regional bloc in nearly the past decade.
The signing ceremony was held at the Ceremonial Hall of the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Pasay City.
Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez said that these agreements would “send a strong message to the world of the Asean’s economic resolve towards cooperation” and would boost the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the countries.
“Through these agreements, I am confident that Asean and Hong Kong China can unlock together the tremendous potential of regional economic integration and foster a more open and opportune environment for the generations to come,” Lopez said during his speech at the ceremony.
Hong Kong China, the Trade secretary said, is one of the worlds’ leading trade powerhouses and the 6th largest trading partner of Asean.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau also saw the signing as an “important milestone” in the bilateral trade investment relations between Asean member states and Hong Kong.
“Today Asean is our 2nd largest merchandise trading partner and the fourth in services trade, but the best is yet to come,” Yau said.
The agreements were reached in September during the Asean economic ministers-Hong Kong consultations, co-chaired by Yau and Lopez.
Hong Kong is the third largest export market for Philippine products in 2016, Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo earlier said in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report.
Rodolfo said the agreements cover elements related to “trade in goods and related issues such as tariffs, rules of origin, non-tariff measures, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures.”
Also covered are “trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, dispute settlement, horizontal and institutional issues, economic and technical cooperation and other areas if interest to be mutually agreed on.”
“These agreements would level up our already vibrant trade and investments relations as this would mean increased market access for Filipino exporters,” Rodolfo said.
“Likewise, for those who have not yet set their foothold in Hong Kong, this would mean new expansion opportunity,” he added. /cbb
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