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Hong Kong close to joining RCEP agreement

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Hong Kong expects to be joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as the administration sets to discuss its inclusion with all 15 RCEP members next year. AFP

Hong Kong close to joining RCEP agreement

Hong Kong expects to be joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as the administration sets to discuss its inclusion with all 15 RCEP members next year. Economic analysts see the presence of Hong Kong in the free-trade bloc as a boost to the ASEAN economy.

John Lee Ka-chiu, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, said on November 3 that Hong Kong was ready to work with the 15 members of RCEP, and that they had welcomed the possible inclusion.

Lee Ka-chiu was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying that Hong Kong had requested membership in January, when the RCEP agreement went into effect. The ten ASEAN member states, which are the core of the RCEP, had welcomed the administration’s request.

He said he was optimistic that Hong Kong would make a good contribution to the free-trade agreement, with Hong Kong ideally positioned to serve as a bridge between mainland China and the world. It is also a leading financial hub.

ASEAN has been Hong Kong’s second biggest trade partner since 2021, with trade volume reaching over $160 billion in 2021, according to the administration.

RCEP has 15 members, with the ten ASEAN member states, and five partners, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and Korea. It covers about 28 per cent of global trade, 30 per cent of global GDP, and nearly 30 per cent of foreign direct investment.

During the 10-year-aniversary of RCEP, held from November 2-3 in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his capacity as ASEAN chair, requested that all RCEP signatories discuss the membership request of Hong Kong to make the inclusion possible next hear.

Ky Sereyvath, an economic researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said he saw positive aspects to the inclusion, as Hong Kong is a potential economic zone with lively international ports related to trade activities.

“Hong Kong has an advanced economy which means it is unable to receive any generalised scheme of preferences. Therefore, if it became a member of the RCEP, Hong Kong will receive a lot of duty-free agreements with ASEAN member states, which would lead to an increase in their freight services,” he said.

Sereyvath added that the RCEP trading bloc includes around 30 per cent of the global population.

He also said that ASEAN, especially Cambodia, had tried hard to bring the RCEP to fruition.

Seng Vanly, international relations analyst, said that the RCEP was born after more than a decade of hard work among ASEAN members.

“The RCEP was initiated at the 2011 ASEAN summit in Bali, Indonesia, with more discussions taking place during Cambodia’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2012. The agreement was officially signed on November 15, 2020 while Vietnam held the rotating chair,” he added.

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