MANILA, PHILIPPINES – ASEAN and Hong Kong, China (HKC) strengthened vibrant trade and economic relations with the signing of the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) and ASEAN – Hong Kong Investment Agreement (AHKIA) at the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on 12 November 2017 in Manila.

The two agreements are part of the region’s continuous efforts in expanding external economic relations to foster greater trade opportunities for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

“This will open more opportunities for ASEAN as we ensure greater market access for our products and sustained flow of foreign direct investments (FDI),” said Secretary Ramon Lopez, this year’s Chairperson of the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM).

Lopez shared that these agreements would provide job opportunities for people and enhance collaboration among businesses, particularly the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector.

AHKFTA is ASEAN’s sixth free trade agreement (FTA) with external partners, after ASEAN-China FTA (ACFTA), ASEAN-Korea FTA (AKFTA), ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP), ASEAN-India FTA (AIFTA), and ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA). It covers trade in goods, rules of origin, non-tariff measures, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, trade in services, intellectual property rights, and economic and technical cooperation.

In the case of the Philippines (PH), which is an advocate of establishing an inclusive and innovative region, the deals provide more opportunities for MSMEs as well as to the country’s export industries given HKC’s role as gateway to the China market and their annual tourist arrivals.

For the first eight months of 2017, HKC was PH’s third top export destination with US$5.55 billion worth of exports equivalent to 13.18% of the country’s total exports. Meanwhile, approved investments from HKC for the first semester of 2017 amounted to US$10.74 million, making it the 12th source of investments of the country.♦