Asean to ink FTA with Hong Kong

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is set to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Hong Kong following three years of negotiations, according to a Ministry of Commerce official who said the agreement could spur more investment and expand trade with the bloc’s second-largest trading partner after mainland China.

Commerce Ministry spokeswoman Soeng Sophary said yesterday that the long-awaited FTA between Asean and Hong Kong would be signed in November when the Philippines hosts the next Asean Summit.

The Asean-HKC Free Trade Agreement comes more than seven years after a similar agreement between Asean and Mainland China came into effect.

Sophary explained that separate FTA negotiations were needed because Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when it was handed over to China as a special administrative region that will operate semi-autonomously until 2047.

“Trade agreements always come with benefits,” she said. “Even though Hong Kong is part of China, its economy and trade still has huge growth potential while it continues to operate under the British system of law.”

“We hope that with Cambodia being an Asean member, the agreement will increase investment from Hong Kong as we have a lot of investment potential,” she added.

Trade between Hong Kong and Asean totalled $106.8 billion last year. Direct trade to Cambodia amounted to $1.1 billion in 2016, with $900 million in imports flowing into the Kingdom against $267 million worth of exports.