The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Hong Kong have concluded negotiations on their free trade agreement (FTA) at the second ASEAN Economic Ministers-Hong Kong, China Consultations held recently in Pasay City, the Philippines.
Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said talks on the ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) were finalized September 9 following three years of negotiations. He added that the ASEAN-Hong Kong-China Investment Agreement (AHKIA) was also concluded.
“This would… send a positive signal for the international community of ASEAN’s resolute commitment to free trade and open markets,” Rodolfo said.
The two agreements will be signed during the 13th ASEAN Summit to be held in the Philippines in November this year. The Chinese special administrative region began free trade negotiations with ASEAN in 2014, four years after the 10-nation economic bloc signed a similar trade deal with China in 2010.
The AHKFTA covers 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.
The trade deal also covers trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, dispute settlement, horizontal and institutional issues, economic and technical cooperation, and other areas of interest to be mutually agreed on.
In addition, ASEAN and Hong Kong economic ministers agreed to endorse the Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH) Work Program, which will serve as a guide to implement cooperation in capacity building, particularly for ASEAN member states.
One of Hong Kong’s commitments to enhance economic cooperation with ASEAN is to be realized through a financing scheme to implement the ECOTECH Work Program worth HKD25 million or US$3.2 million for five years.
ASEAN, an economic bloc with a combined population of more than 600 million, is Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner after mainland China, according to the territory’s Trade and Industry Department website.
Hong Kong also acts as an important entrepot for trade between mainland China and ASEAN, an economic grouping made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The Chinese territory has remained a separate customs entity from mainland China since the city’s 1997 handover by Britain.
ASEAN members have established a free-trade area among themselves aiming to slash tariffs on most goods to zero and minimize non-tariff barriers.