(Hong Kong) - Hong Kong has signed a landmark free trade deal with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in a move the city's commerce secretary says could further integrate Hong Kong into China's Belt and Road initiative.
Heads of state and government of ASEAN's ten members and their dialogue partners gather in the Philippines from November 13 to 14 for the 31st ASEAN Summit. The ministers were meeting just days after Trump accused Asia-Pacific nations of undercutting his country - the world " s largest economy - during another regional meeting in Vietnam.
Officials said the Asean Hong Kong China Free Trade Agreement (AHKCFTA) and Asean Hong Kong Investment Agreement (AHKIA) were part of the bloc's continued efforts to expand external economic relations and foster greater trade opportunities for the Asean Economic Community (AEC). China has moved to occupy the space vacated by the United States, positioning itself as the champion of a world with fewer barriers to commerce, even as critics accuse it of its own brand of protectionism.
He said ASEAN is Hong Kong's second-largest merchandise trading partner and fourth-largest partner in services trade "but the best is yet to come", with the agreements expected to fuel new investment opportunities and boost trade flows.
"From now on, Hong Kong and all our ASEAN friends will have ample opportunities to meet and review our trade and investment opportunities", he said.
The accords were reached last September, a result of a three-year negotiation between ASEAN and Hong Kong. ASEAN members have established a free-trade area among themselves aiming to slash tariffs on most goods to zero and minimise non-tariff barriers.
The leaders of the ten member-states of the ASEAN including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam along with dialogue partners Australia, Canada, China, European Council, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, United States and the United Nations are now in Manila to attend the ASEAN summit.
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