| James Kon |
HONG Kong, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, attaches great importance to ASEAN including Brunei Darussalam.
As such, it is increasing its presence in the region through trade partnerships and people-to-people exchanges.
To further boost trade, Hong Kong and ASEAN inked a free trade agreement (FTA) in 2017 which is expected to come into effect later this year.
Director General of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Indonesia Law Kin Wai in an interview said, “This is my first official visit to Brunei since becoming Director General of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Jakarta last December.”
“Our office in Indonesia is responsible for the overall liaison with ASEAN, particularly bilateral relations between Hong Kong and four ASEAN member countries namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines,” he added.
“ASEAN as a whole is of great importance to Hong Kong in terms of trading of goods. This region is Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner after China,” Law said.
“In 2017, the total trade volume between Hong Kong and ASEAN was about USD20 billion and the average growth rate from 2013 to 2017 was 5.7 per cent. If we look at 2017 alone, we are talking about 12 per cent growth in trading of goods,” he added.
He went on to say that in terms of economy, culture and geographical proximity, ASEAN and Hong Kong are very close.
“Over the decades, we see the growing importance of ASEAN with its rapid pace of development. We thought that it is important to step up our level of representation in this region to recognise the region’s huge potential,” Law added.
In stepping up its presence in ASEAN, he revealed that the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office will be setting up an office in Thailand at the end of this month.
Presently, it has branches in Indonesia and Singapore and they cover specific growth areas in ASEAN.
Law cited that one of the most recent encouraging developments is the FTA and its related investment agreements.
After several years of negotiations between Hong Kong and ASEAN member countries, he said, “We signed the FTA in late 2017, which is a very significant development in our bilateral relationship.”
The scope of the FTA, he added, “is very comprehensive and aimed at providing legal certainty and easier market access for goods between Hong Kong and ASEAN.”
“We will also facilitate the flow of trades and services as well as professionals. We are currently in the final stage. ASEAN member countries are carrying out the necessary domestic ratification process to enable the agreement to come into force. We are very grateful to the relevant ASEAN government agencies for attaching great importance on the free trade agreement. I hope the agreement will come into effect by middle of this year,” Law said.
Another avenue to boost bilateral ties, he mentioned, is the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative encompassing a huge geographical corridor that includes ASEAN.
“The initiative is hoped to spur the overall economic development of countries within the corridor. This is good for ASEAN and its close partners like Hong Kong,” he added.
On the Greater Bay Area Development that covers Hong Kong, Macau and nine neighbouring cities in Guangdong, Law said, “This is the most affluent region in mainland China.”
“It comes with a sizeable population and a high level of disposable income. The populace can be a very promising market for ideas, products, and investments. We would like to come up with policies to better facilitate business. This presents very good opportunities for companies in ASEAN,” he added.
Law said, “I would like to see more bilateral visits by senior government officials from Hong Kong to ASEAN and vice versa. Regular dialogues are always beneficial.”
With the FTA and related investment agreements coming into force, he added, “We would love to see more ASEAN business presence in Hong Kong and Hong Kong companies in ASEAN. Besides exploring potentials in Hong Kong, ASEAN companies can also look at markets such as mainland China.”