A free trade agreement (FTA) to be signed in November by China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will help businesses better explore opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative, according to experts in Hong Kong.
The FTA will expand trade market for Hong Kong via the platform of ASEAN, and also facilitate ASEAN to seek better accesses to the Chinese mainland and other areas via Hong Kong, said Edward Yau Tang-wah, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the HKSAR government.
ASEAN is a very important trading partner of Hong Kong, ranking the second largest trading partner in merchandise trade in 2016, and the fourth largest in services trade in 2015.
The FTA will cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical co-operation and dispute settlement mechanisms and will boost trade, investment and various exchanges between Hong Kong and ASEAN, said Choi Koon-shum, chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong.
With strengths in finance and professional services, such as law, accounting and management, Hong Kong can help improve professional services in ASEAN and become a base for the Chinese mainland enterprises which plan to explore ASEAN market, he said.
The FTA will sharpen Hong Kong's competitive edges as it has potentials to attract the Chinese mainland enterprises to build regional headquarters in Hong Kong in expanding business in ASEAN, said Huang Sihua, a researcher with the Bank of China (Hong Kong).
As each ASEAN member has its own social and cultural background, service sectors must be highly localized, and this will bring opportunities for Hong Kong professional service sector, Huang said.
The FTA negotiations between Hong Kong and ASEAN commenced in July 2014.
The total merchandise trade between Hong Kong and ASEAN amounted to 106.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, and total services trade between the two sides was 15.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, according to the HKSAR government.
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