Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region signed a free-trade agreement and an investment agreement last Sunday.
The Asean-Hong Kong, China (HKC) Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) and the investment agreement are regarded by both parties as a “clear signal” that the Asean and its trade partners will continue to push back against trade protectionism.
The AHKFTA was signed at the sidelines of the 31st Asean summit and related summits in Manila.
Aside from mutually benefitting from increased market access, and possible partnerships between small businesses in the Asean and Hong Kong, the two trade agreements were viewed as a symbol of continued trade liberalization in Asia, in contrast to increasing protectionism in other parts of the world.
“In the face of protectionist sentiments across the world, these two agreements are, in fact, a loud and clear vote that all of us here prefer free and open trade,” said HKC Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau during the signing ceremony held last Sunday at the Marriot Hotel.
Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez expressed confidence that the agreement would boost trade relations between Southeast Asian countries and HKC, the sixth- largest trading partner of the Asean. For one, HKC stands as the gateway to mainland China.
As a group, the Asean was Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner, in 2016, after mainland China.
Total merchandise trade between Hong Kong and the Asean amounted to HK$833.3 billion, representing 11 percent of Hong Kong’s global merchandise trade in 2016 and registering an annual average growth rate of 3.4 percent per annum between 2012 and 2016.
Hong Kong’s domestic exports to the Asean amounted to over HK$7.9 billion, accounting for 18.5 percent of Hong Kong’s total domestic exports in 2016.