By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Association of South east Asian Nations (ASEAN) will sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Hong Kong, China in November this year following the conclusion of negotiations on trade and investment agreements.
Philippine Lead and Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo, who also serves as spokesperson for the AEM Chair Ramon M. Lopez reported that, aside from the ASEAN-HK China FTA or AHKFTA, the ministers also approved the ASEAN-HK China Investment Agreement or AHKIA. Both negotiations were concluded at the 2nd AEM-HK China meeting here. “The 2nd AEM-Hong Kong, China meeting started on a high note, with the announcement of the conclusion of the AHKFTA and AHKIA,” Rodolfo said.
The signing of these agreements is set for November this year during the 31st ASEAN Summit. “This bodes well for both regional and national business communities, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises,” said Rodolfo noting this would send a positive signal to the international community of ASEAN’s resolute commitment to free trade and open markets.
Rodolfo cited the agreements as very significant because this would be the first ASEAN FTA to be signed in years.
The FTA also included a chapter on Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH), which would be implemented through an ECOTECH Work Program, which would be adopted when the two agreements are signed at the margins of the ASEAN Summit in Pampanga in November this year.
In 2016, HKC ranked as the sixth largest trading partner of ASEAN with a total bilateral merchandize trade of $93.3 billion or 4.2 percent of ASEAN total trade. Total foreign direct investment flows from HKC to ASEAN also amount to $9.6 billion or 9.9 percent of ASEAN total FDI in the same year.