GET READY for a business boost. Hong Kong is set to join the world’s biggest trading bloc.
The move means Hong Kong people will find tariff-free open doors for services and goods across Asia Pacific, the world’s fastest growing region, with a gross domestic product of US$38 trillion.
The southern Chinese city has applied for its own membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and is well placed to be accepted, said John Lee Ka-chiu, the city’s Chief Executive, speaking on TV show Friday Beyond Spotlights.
The move will make Hong Kong part of the biggest free trade deal in the world, representing a single market of nearly one third of humanity. The bloc is focused on Asia-Pacific but excludes the United States.
DRAMATIC TURN AROUND
It is an extraordinary turn-round from the situation just three years ago, when the US administration was hitting Hong Kong with sanctions, attacking its status at the World Trade Organization, and unilaterally deciding that nothing should be labelled “Made in Hong Kong”—a demand ruled unfair by a WTO panel.
But while the US was on the offensive, Hong Kong was already making relationships. “In fact, we already have free trade agreements with 13 of the 15 economies of RCEP,” John Lee told interviewer Patrick Tsang On-Yip.
Furthermore, the city has created active trading relationships with surrounding economies in both services and a goods. “The trade in services that Hong Kong has with RCEP countries is about 50% of our overall trade in services, and for trading goods, it will be 70%,” the city’s leader said.
Analysts expect Hong Kong to join RCEP later this year. It will find tariffs and other trade barriers will be eliminated, and access will be provided to much larger markets, in the fastest growing area of the world.
RCEP’s membership includes China, plus the entire membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, better known as ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore). But RCEP excludes the United States, although that country sees itself as the ruling power in Asia Pacific. However the trade bloc does include U.S. allies in the region: Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
Watch the full interview below. Or scroll further down to read more.
LIFTING HONG KONG
Mr Lee also revealed that he had a host of other plans to lift the Hong Kong economy too—and plans to travel to other countries to boost relationships, as well as inviting people to visit the city.
The Chief Executive in October last year shared plans to boost business in Hong Kong. Watch the video below for a short summary of his policy address from Fridayeveryday editor Nury Vittachi.
He also specified several measures to attract international talent to Hong Kong. Click here for details.
In the interview Mr Lee also opened up about his life away from the spotlight, revealing that he was a 25-year afficionado of qigong, the ancient Chinese exercise that combines movement, balance, breathing and meditation. The technique cured him of severe back problems, leaving him in excellent health.
But in a surprise moment of emotion, famously workaholic Mr Lee revealed that he felt guilt about his wife, since she constantly supported him, although his work meant that he did not spend enough time with her.
Friday Beyond Spotlights is a weekly talk show which can be seen on iCable in Hong Kong and on YouTube. Image at the top of the page is from Sergio Capuzzimati on Unsplash.