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During the question-and-answer session of the Joint Business Community Luncheon 2017 on January 26, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, C Y Leung, stressed the importance to the city of global free trade.
He pointed out that "Hong Kong is a great example as to how you could do without trade barriers and at the same time chalk up great trade volumes and economic prosperity. … The volume of trade represents several times our total gross domestic product."
It had been hoped that negotiations with the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – could have been concluded in 2016.
Leung confirmed that the Government is still "working very hard to keep abreast with the latest negotiation with each and every of the ASEAN partner countries. ASEAN is our second largest trading partner when comes to merchandise trade, and we are looking forward to concluding [FTA] negotiations with all its member countries in late March."
It has been noted previously that, when completed, the FTA will, together with the Mainland China-ASEAN FTA and the Mainland-Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), "provide a solid platform to facilitate trade and investment among Hong Kong and ASEAN countries." It will eliminate or reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and will also include preferential rules of origin; liberalized rules for trade in services; and the liberalization, promotion, and protection of investment.
After the conclusion of the FTA negotiations with ASEAN, Hong Kong is expected to seek to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, currently being negotiated between ASEAN and its six FTA partners: Mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India.
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