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Hopes running high for Asean-Hong Kong pacts

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
Asean leaders, including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, join hands during the opening ceremony of the Asean Summit in Manila on November 13. AFP

Cambodia is ready to take full advantage of new opportunities brought about by recently-signed free trade and investment agreements between Asean and Hong Kong, the Commerce Minister said yesterday.

The Asean-Hong Kong China Free Trade and Investment Agreements (AHCFTA), signed on November 12 on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, will boost trade, improve economic efficiency and create a broader market with greater opportunities and greater economies of scale, according to a press release from the Ministry of Commerce (MoC).

Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak, who represented Cambodia during the Asean summit, said the benefits of the agreements for Cambodia will be manifold.

“When the agreement comes into effect, it will improve the flow of investment and trade between both parties, which will benefit the people of Asean,” he said.

“In addition, it will enhance economic connectivity between Asean and Hong Kong through the liberalisation of trade, goods, services and investment.

“Cambodia will benefit from this agreement, as Hong Kong is a huge capital market.”

According to the MoC, the agreements will provide separate and special incentives for newer member states – such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – to increase participation in greater economic integration, as well as expanding their exports by increasing domestic capacity, efficiency and competitiveness.

David Van, the executive director of Deewee Consultants, agreed with Mr Sorasak that the new pacts will likely add momentum to regional trade expansion.

“They will provide more avenues for our products and services,” said Mr Van.

Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s commerce and development secretary, told Reuters that the new agreements aim to bring “deeper and bolder” integration of market access with the bloc.

“In the face of protectionist sentiments in other parts of the world, these two agreements are in fact a loud and clear vote from all of us here for freer and more open trade,” Mr Yau said.

“Hong Kong, being a free trade promoter and advocate of a strong, rule-based, multilateral trading system, will continue to take this pathway, continue to do our utmost,” he added.

Total merchandise trade between Hong Kong and Asean was valued at $107 billion last year, while bilateral trade in services reached about $15.5 billion in 2015.

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