ASEAN, Hong Kong sign free trade, investment agreements

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 12) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Sunday signed free trade and investment agreements with Hong Kong, one of the Philippines’ largest trading partners.

Representatives of the 10-nation bloc and the Hong Kong government inked the two deals on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings that the country is hosting.

The accords were reached last September, a result of a three-year negotiation between ASEAN and Hong Kong.

The agreements aims to strengthen trade and investment flows between the ASEAN members and Hong Kong.

The deals also hope to boost micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Hong Kong and the ASEAN region. Strengthening small businesses is a strong advocacy of the Philippines. Foreign ministers of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) recently pledged to implement the Boracay Action Agenda, a Philippine-led initiative on MSMEs.

Related: APEC ministers pledge to implement Boracay Action Agenda

Hong Kong was the Philippines’ fifth largest trading partner in 2015 with a total trade of $8.231 billion (around P421.7 billion at the current exchange rate).

“Hong Kong is a viable target market for Philippine consumer goods and brands, with Hong Kong serving as a gateway to the China market by providing other economies with a venue for marketing their goods to Mainland China consumers,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier said as the country endorsed ASEAN’s free trade agreement with Hong Kong.

In 2015, Hong Kong was ASEAN’s 7th largest trading partner, with total trade worth HK$ 823.3 billion (around P 5.4 trillion).

ASEAN is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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.