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ASEAN, Hong Kong wind up FTA negotiations

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November, a Philippine government official said on September 9, following three years of talks.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez made the request to his counterpart, South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong, during their bilateral meeting, in view of efforts towards further liberalization under the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement. "This would. send a positive signal for the global community of ASEAN's resolute commitment to free trade and open markets", Rodolfo told reporters.

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.

As of the end of 2015, Asean ranked sixth among destinations for Hong Kong outward direct investment with a total of HK$218 billion, and Asean also ranked sixth as a source for inward direct investment totaling HK$555 billion, the newspaper said. It has remained a separate customs entity from mainland China since the city's 1997 handover by Britain.

ASEAN, which formally became a single economic bloc in 2015, has eliminated nearly all tariffs on goods, but non-tariff barriers, such as those related to import and export permits, have expanded over the years. "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 other 16 jurisdictions that already have TSP agreements with the HKSAR are Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, India, Italy, Korea, the Macau Special Administrative Region, Mongolia, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Source: Express Newsline

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