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ASEAN, Hong Kong conclude Free Trade Agreement talks

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (HKC) announced Saturday the conclusion of negotiations on free trade and investment agreements.

"The ministers were pleased to note the negotiations for the ASEAN-HKC Free Trade Agreement and the ASEAN-HKC Investment Agreement had been concluded," the economic ministers of the ASEAN and HKC Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said in a joint statement released to the media.

ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting Philippine lead and Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said the declaration was made during the 2nd AEM-HKC Consultations in Pasay City on Saturday morning.

The 10 member-states of the bloc and Hong Kong are scheduled to sign the FTA and investment agreement in November, where heads of states of ASEAN and its dialogue partners will gather for the 31st ASEAN Summit in Pampanga.

"The signing of these agreements this November bodes well for the Philippines, particularly for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)," Rodolfo told reporters in a press briefing.

"These agreements would level up our already vibrant trade and investments relations as this would mean increased market access for Filipino exporters," he added.

Hong Kong is the third largest export market for Philippine products in 2016 with merchandise export that amounted to $6.62 billion.

"We are anticipating increased inflow of investments from Hong Kong, which will definitely translate to more employment opportunities for the Filipinos," the Trade official said.

Deepened cooperation will also be enabled through the endorsement of the Economic and Technological (ECOTECH) Work Programme under the ASEAN-HKC FTA, according to Rodolfo.

"This will provide opportunities for our MSMEs to work together through capacity building exercises, information sharing, and internship programs, among others," he added.

Free trade negotiations between the ASEAN and Hong Kong began in July 2014.

Hong Kong is the sixth largest trading partner in 2016 with total merchandise trade of $93.3 billion or 4.2 percent of the bloc's total trade.

Total foreign direct investment (FDI) flows from Hong Kong to ASEAN reached $9.6 billion or 9.9 percent of the bloc's total FDI in 2016. —ALG, GMA News

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