The Standard - 29 December 2022
Hong Kong eyes RCEP membership
By Karen Ng
Hong Kong may join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement in the coming summer at the earliest, sources told the Japanese agency Kyodo News.
Kyodo News reported that RCEP, the world’s largest free trade bloc, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of the global trade volume, has started coordinating negotiations on Hong Kong’s application.
Sources said Hong Kong is the only applicant after India’s exit in 2019. The city can only join the trade agreement after getting the nod from all 15 members.
It is unclear if the negotiations are going smoothly as member states may have opposition towards China’s ambition to expand the One Belt One Road initiative, sources said.
Commenced in January this year, the RCEP involves China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, namely Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and Myanmar.
RCEP member countries constituted over 70 percent of Hong Kong’s total merchandise trade in 2021, according to the Trade and Industry Department.
Hong Kong submitted an application to the RCEP in late February. The authorities are actively pursuing early accession to the body, said Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu in the Policy Address in October.
Accession will help firms reduce costs and open up overseas markets, strengthening Hong Kong’s status as an international trade center, Lee added.