During a visit to Phnom Penh this week, Greg So, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, reiterated Hong Kong’s desire to be inducted into the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement and highlighted Cambodia as a potential beneficiary for foreign direct investment from Hong Kong.
In So’s view, economic ties between Hong Kong and Cambodia have been very strong, with significant increases in trade between the two during 2011 and 2012.
“In 2011, there was an increase in trade of 22 per cent. In the first nine months of 2012, year-on-year, there has been a 16 per cent increase in trade,” said So.
According to So, the most encouraging numbers can be found in Hong Kong’s imports from Cambodia.
“Imports from Cambodia saw an increase last year of 90 per cent. In the first eight months of this year it’s been 76 per cent. All of this points to a lot of room for collaboration.”
Some specific areas noted by So were processing agricultural products, manufacturing and the garment industry. However, he said with the service sector accounting for 93 per cent of Hong Kong’s GDP, collaboration could spring from tourism, hospitality, design, innovation, technology and research and development.
“This country [Cambodia] is rich in investment opportunities. I think the door is wide open for Hong Kong investors to come in,” he said.
Hong Kong is now campaigning to be integrated into the free trade agreement between China and ASEAN countries. So highlighted the fact that Hong Kong is used as a gateway for trade with Mainland China.
“In our exports with ASEAN countries, 97 per cent of those exports are re-exports out of which 71 per cent is to or from Mainland China,” he said.
“So, you see the majority of trades between ASEAN and China is through Hong Kong. That’s precisely our role in the scheme of things.”
The integration of Hong Kong into the free trade agreement will be on the agenda for the November ASEAN summit in Cambodia, said So, “I understand that the chair, Prime Minister Hun Sen, will push for Hong Kong to be a party to the agreement in the November summit.”
Cambodia would stand to benefit from Hong Kong’s integration into the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement through increased investment opportunities and access to a strong financial infrastructure, according to So.
“We rank fifth in the world in terms of foreign direct investment… I think we could bring a lot of investment into Cambodia. And also, a lot of our manufacturing sectors would like to re-tap into the opportunities and collaborate with the local enterprises in terms of setting up operations here.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Erika Mudie at [email protected]