Hong Kong Confirms Its FTA Aspirations

On February 15, in his reply to a question in the Legislative Council, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So confirmed that Hong Kong is looking to conclude further free trade agreements (FTAs).

He stressed that, if protectionist moves increase (particularly in the United States) and they deter the recovery of global trade, “Hong Kong, being a small and open economy, will inevitably be affected. The Government upholds the belief that free trade is conducive to global economic development.”

“So far,” he said, “Hong Kong has concluded FTAs with Mainland China, New Zealand, the member states of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), and Chile, and is conducting FTA negotiations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), [and] Maldives, Georgia, and Macau.”

After the conclusion of the FTA negotiations with ASEAN, Hong Kong is expected to seek to join the talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), currently being negotiated between ASEAN and its six FTA partners: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

So also noted that the RCEP “is one of the potential pathways to realize the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), one of the key initiatives of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).”

“As a member economy of APEC,” he added, “Hong Kong, together with other member economies, completed in 2016 a collective strategy study on issues related to the realization of the FTAAP.”

He concluded that Hong Kong “welcomes” the Lima Declaration by APEC Leaders in November last year in support of the FTAAP. “We will work closely with APEC member economies and participate actively in the relevant work plans of APEC so as to facilitate [its] early realization,” he said.