SCED speaks on Hong Kong - ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and related Investment Agreement
Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, at a media session on the Hong Kong - Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and related Investment Agreement after attending a radio programme today (November 13):
Reporter: On the trade and investment deals signed with the ASEAN countries, in terms of money terms and the number of jobs created, how would it benefit Hong Kong?
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development: If we just look at a very narrow sense, the immediate benefit would be cost cutting, in terms of customs duties being paid. We have been paying on an annual basis over $500 million to the ASEAN countries. But that is the small dollar sign. The much bigger dollar sign is in the area of increasing our competitiveness, due to the reduction of costs and customs duties. Take for instance, if our exports which are valued over $800 billion annually to ASEAN countries would have a reduced cost, that means these products will be selling at a more competitive manner.
More important is in the services sector. Currently, our (strength in) trade in services with ASEAN is still not fully reflected. Annually, it amounted to $120 billion. We have seen that many of Hong Kong's services, in particular, professional services, financial services, commercial services or even legal services, are in great demand.
These two agreements would provide a platform for our services to go out to these ASEAN countries. With the lower base we have established now (with the signing of the FTA), there is a great potential for them to expand their proportion to reflect the services that we are good at.
Reporter: Will people here be able to feel the benefits of these agreements?
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development: For sure, this benefit does not confine to enterprises going out, because for both trade in goods and trade in services, many of these companies are established in Hong Kong with local employment. With greater prospects for their products to sell better in our big market, and with services being able to be provided to a wider market, Hong Kong companies stand to benefit. It would also attract many more foreign companies using Hong Kong as a base for them to target at this very big foreign market of the ASEAN countries.
Reporter: It has taken Hong Kong three years to conclude these deals, and what is the next?
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development: Trade negotiations are not easy. I must thank my team for their dedication in firming up and finalising such deals. Trade deals are also sort of taking two to tango. We will continue to look for like-minded countries and economies to partner with them for free trade agreements and investment agreements which we believe are of mutual benefits. We are now negotiating with Australia on the FTA. We are also targeting at some of the economies along the Belt and Road route where we see there might be strategic value in engaging them, so that we can use them as the gateway to, for instance, Eastern Europe or even Eurasia regions where we have not been exploring that much in the past. So, efforts will be made.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Monday, November 13, 2017