19 Nov 2018
During a regional summit on Thursday, Hong Kong and Australia concluded a deal allowing bilateral free trade and services.
Following 18 months of negotiations, the pair came to terms on a free-trade agreement and investment agreement, covering trade in goods, services, investment and other related areas, as well as boosting mutual trade and services flow. The deal comes at a time when global economics are seeing the repercussions of a trade war.
At the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Ministerial Meeting in Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said: “This document with Australia is important because the service industries in both Australia and Hong Kong are highly complementary.”
Yau described the free-trade agreement as having a sent “a positive message” to the world in times of the US-China trade war – especially as Hong Kong has been affected by the war, with half of its US exports from China having been impacted by tariffs.
Yau signed a declaration of intent to conclude the deal with Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham. South China Morning Post reports that Hong Kong and Australia will finalise the agreements in the first half of 2019.
“Hong Kong has set clear objectives in launching the negotiations – to achieve zero tariffs for Hong Kong products in the Australian market and to secure Australia’s best commitments for Hong Kong services,” Yau said.
“Our objectives have been largely met with the successful conclusion today of the negotiation of the very comprehensive free-trade agreements and investment agreement, thereby bringing our bilateral trade and investment relationship with Australia to new heights.”
The agreement has been welcomed by Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah, chairman of one of the city’s largest business chambers, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries.
He said: “We also welcome more trade deals with our core markets, such as Indonesia and the European Union. The more free-trade agreements, the more allies and the fewer barriers to trade.”
This free-trade agreement is Hong Kong’s ninth. Last year, Australia was Hong Kong’s 19th largest trading partner in merchandise trade, valued at HK$54.2 billion.