MANILA – A free trade agreement between ASEAN and Hong Kong was finalized this Saturday (Sept. 9) at the ongoing ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Pasay City, the first free trade agreement to be signed in eight years.
“The signing of these agreements this November bodes well for both regional and national business communities, particularly for MSMEs,” according to Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo of the Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine AEM lead.
He added “this would also send a positive signal to the international community of ASEAN’s resolute commitment to free trade and open markets.”
A free trade agreement is a deal between two countries or regions meant to reduce import quotas, and tariffs or taxes, in the export and import of products and services.
The reduction of tariffs normally leads to expanded trade relations between two countries.
The Philippines is seen to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the new FTA, because Hong Kong is its third biggest export market as of 2016, with exports worth a total $6.6 billion.
“These two agreements between ASEAN and Hong Kong, China would level up our already vibrant trade and investment relations as this would mean increased market access for the Filipino exports,” noted Undersecretary Rodolfo.
“We are anticipating increased inflow of investments in HK which will definitely translate to more employment opportunities for Filipinos,” he added.
The Philippines, meanwhile, also strove to make a pitch for its tropical fruit exports to Korea, particularly bananas, pineapple and mangos. At the AEM meeting with representatives of the Republic of Korea last Saturday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez asked ROK to buy more of these fruits.
“In particular, the Philippines has put forward its request for improved market access for our exports of tropical fruits and other products of interest to ROK,” said Rodolfo. “Korea was receptive and said it would look at the Philippine request.” He said bananas, pineapples, and mangoes “are very important for the Philippines because Korea is a big export market.”
On Monday (Sept. 11), the ASEAN economic ministers will talk to Russia and India.
Officials hope to expand the trade of goods and services between the 10 ASEAN members and the two countries.