Asean Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement

On November 12, 2017, on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Pasay City, Philippines, Hong Kong`s Chinese Ministers of Trade and Economic Development signed the ASEAN-HKC Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) and the ASEAN Investment Agreement (AHKIA). Negotiations between AHKFTA and AHKIA were concluded three years after the start in July 2014. Participating ministers noted that AHKFTA is ASEAN`s sixth free trade agreement with external partners, after China, Korea, Japan, India and Australia-New Zealand. It consists of fourteen chapters covering broad areas of market access liberalization, trade facilitation, rules to promote confidence in trade and cooperation to facilitate trade in goods and services in the region. AHKIA complements AHKFTA by protecting, promoting and facilitating investment. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations includes the countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Hong Kong has a closer economic partnership agreement with China, which allows preferential market access for Hong Kong service providers and duty-free treatment for products originating in Hong Kong. With the EPA, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement and AHKFTA, Hong Kong has the potential to facilitate and increase investment and trade across the region. The implementation of AHKFTA will allow Vietnam to further improve its competitive commercial network. It will continue to help the economy grow the value chain, from exporting low-tech production to exporting high-tech products such as electronics, machinery, vehicles and medical devices. In order to reduce trade restrictions, both parties agreed to lift restrictions on foreign participation and the number of employees. Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines will also allow Hong Kong companies to buy back 50 percent or full corporate ownership. So far, only seven of the ten ASEAN countries have allowed business travellers from Hong Kong to remain visa-free for 14 to 30 days.

The free trade agreement will allow business travellers from Hong Kong to stay for up to 90 days in each ASEAN country without the need for a business visa. In the face of the close economic and trade relations between China and Southeast Asia, Hong Kong plays an important role as a trade link between the two. For example, Hong Kong, through its Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with mainland China, provides preferential market access for Hong Kong service providers and duty-free treatment for Hong Kong products originating in China. This has created a strong link between foreign companies (most of them from ASEAN) and China via Hong Kong. Vietnam is Hong Kong`s third largest trading partner and ASEAN`s largest export market. In the first five months of 2019, Hong Kong accounted for 30.4% of Vietnam`s total FDI investment, or $5.08 billion. As far as trade in goods is concerned under the free trade agreement, Indonesia will gradually reduce and eliminate tariffs on goods from Hong Kong, a HKSAR government spokesman said. Since 2012, re-exports of ASEAN products to China via Hong Kong have increased by an average of 6.4% per year. In 2016, more than $54 billion in trade between ASEAN and mainland China passed through Hong Kong.