Agreements expected to cement trade and investment ties between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Hong Kong were signed on Sunday at the sidelines of the Philippines’ hosting of the annual Asean summit.
Officials said the Asean Hong Kong China Free Trade Agreement (AHKCFTA) and Asean Hong Kong Investment Agreement (AHKIA) were part of the bloc’s continued efforts to expand external economic relations and foster greater trade opportunities for the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
The Trade department said the AHKCFTA followed similar trade agreements with external partners such as China, Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The agreement covers trade in goods, rules of origin, non-tariff measures, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, trade in services, intellectual property rights, and economic and technical cooperation.
“This will open more opportunities for Asean as we ensure greater market access for our products and sustained flow of foreign direct investments (FDI),” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
In the case of the Philippines, Lopez said the deals would provide more opportunities for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) as well as large exporters given Hong Kong’s role as a gateway to the China market.
Hong Kong and China was the third top destination for Philippine outbound shipments as of end-August, accounting for $5.55 billion worth of goods equivalent to 13.18% of total exports.
Approved investments from Hong Kong and China, meanwhile, amounted to $10.74 million as of the first semester.
“[A] strategic partnership between Asean and HKC (Hong Kong and China) would surely user in greater synergies and more job opportunities for people and businesses in the region,” Lopez said.
“With this signing on the occasion of the 31st Asean Summit, we send a strong message to the world of our outward-oriented drive and economic resolve towards cooperation,” he added.
Through these two agreements, I am confident that Asean and Hong Kong, China can unlock together the tremendous potential of regional economic integration and foster a more open opportune environment for our people and the generations to come.”