Hong Kong set to join free trade partnership

Local | Jane Cheung 1 Dec 2020

Hong Kong has gained support from Beijing and some neighboring countries to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership signed by 15 countries to promote free trade, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said.

Speaking at an online Belt and Road Summit yesterday, Lam said Hong Kong has "free trade agreements in effect with Asean, Australia and New Zealand, as well as our Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the mainland."

"We are grateful for the clear support we've received from some of the RCEP member states and we look forward to beginning discussions on Hong Kong's accession to the partnership at the earliest opportunity," she said.

Ten members of Asean together with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia signed the world's biggest free trade deal two weeks ago, which was seen as a huge coup for China in extending its influence in the region. The 15 RCEP members account for about 30 percent of global gross domestic product.

Lam said the SAR is the best partner for those seeking opportunities in the Belt and Road development due to the SAR's multi-lingual experts in finance, trade, logistics, law and other professional service industries.

"Our advantages include rule of law, an efficient and open market, free flow of capital and information, a simple and low tax system and under One Country, Two Systems - Hong Kong can act as a bridge between foreign and mainland markets," she said.

She said local manufacturers and exporters crave foreign trade partners and believe the Belt and Road Initiative could bring them opportunities.

The vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, Ning Jizhe, said Beijing will focus on developing "double economic circulation" within and outside China and Hong Kong will play a vital part in connecting the domestic market with international ones.

"Hong Kong, as a witness and participant of national development, cannot and shall not be absent in the process," Ning said.

However, he said the SAR should strengthen its status as the global hub for offshore trading of the yuan and as a free port.

"Hong Kong enterprises can also make use of their management experience and help mainland companies improve competitiveness," he said.

The Vice Minister of Commerce, Wang Bingnan, said the Greater Bay Area will become a crucial connection linking Hong Kong with the Belt and Road Initiative.

He said Beijing will support the SAR in taking part in the mainland's annual International Import Expo and establish closer trade relationships through the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

China Communications Construction Company executive director Wang Tongzhou said companies should adjust their supply chains amid the Covid-19 pandemic as many projects have been delayed.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com



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