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After meetings with the five major chambers of commerce, Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Gregory So, has placed an emphasis on completing the proposed Hong Kong-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) free trade agreement (FTA) as soon as possible.
He commented that the special challenge in concluding an agreement will be one of timing. "We note that the negotiation process between ASEAN economies with a third-party FTA partner will usually take about two to three years to complete," he said. "As you know, we in Hong Kong like to do things fast, so the challenge will be to expeditiously complete the negotiation and reap the benefit of the FTA for both the ASEAN economies and the Hong Kong economy."
He had met with to representatives from the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, the Hong Kong Chinese Importers' and Exporters' Association, and the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce to seek their views on the FTA.
So told the meeting that an agreement would boost the city's economic growth by allowing its goods, services, and investments to access a substantially larger market. "Forging an FTA with ASEAN contributes to regional economic integration, which is beneficial to maintaining and enhancing Hong Kong's international profile and its role as a regional trading hub, as well as a gateway for trade and investment between ASEAN and the Mainland," he said.
With the support of the Chinese Government, and following ASEAN's recent consent, the Government expects to commence formal FTA negotiations in mid July, after the completion of an ongoing public consultation.
The FTA will include the elimination or reduction of tariffs; rules of origin; the liberalization of trade in services; the liberalization, promotion, and protection of investment; and a framework for intellectual property co-operation.
ASEAN is already the second largest trading partner of Hong Kong in terms of goods and the fourth largest in terms of services. It is the fifth largest destination of foreign direct investment (FDI) from Hong Kong, and the sixth largest source of FDI into Hong Kong.
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