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Asean free trade agreement with HK expected to benefit PH

Philippine Daily Inquirer | Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Asean free trade agreement with HK expected to benefit PH

MANILA, Philippines—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is eyeing to forge a free trade agreement with Hong Kong, which is seen to benefit the Philippines significantly.

“Initially, a free trade agreement will benefit us because a significant part of the Philippine-China trade goes in and out through Hong Kong,” said Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo.

“Since our trade with China is quite significant, it makes sense to reduce the friction, in terms of procedures and regulatory measures to the extent that we can ease the flow of goods,” Domingo said on Wednesday.

It was only last year that the Asean leaders decided to negotiate for a free trade agreement with Hong Kong, which was earlier requesting accession instead to the existing Asean + China FTA. The Asean leaders, according to Domingo, decided against it as negotiations for an accession would be more difficult than forging an FTA.

Following last year’s decision, the regional bloc started this year the necessary research and studies in preparation for the negotiation proper.

Hong Kong, with its free port that does not levy any customs tariff and has limited excise duties, remains a potentially huge market for food and other consumer items from the Philippines. It is also the most important entry point to mainland China.

On another development, economic ministers from the 10 member states of the Asean met last week to discuss issues regarding the bloc’s +1 free trade agreements, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the centrality of Asean. These discussions were in preparation for the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting next month.—Amy R. Remo

 source: PDI