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Free Trade Agreement with Association of Southeast Asian Nations

The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, returned from Vientiane, Laos yesterday. It was the first time that Hong Kong joined the 10-Member State Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers Meeting to negotiate the Hong Kong, China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. Ministers of the 10 member states agreed to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible, hopefully within 2016.

The current-term Government attaches great importance to the ties with ASEAN, which is Hong Kong's second largest trading partner in goods. ASEAN countries are also undergoing rapid economic growth. Indonesia is the largest economy among the 10 ASEAN member states. Last year, I led a delegation to Indonesia and met with the country's President and Vice President. Late last year, the Education Bureau decided to offer the Hong Kong Scholarship for “Belt and Road” Students (Indonesia) starting from the 2016/17 academic year, so as to attract outstanding students from Indonesia to pursue undergraduate studies in Hong Kong. In addition, the new Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Indonesia will officially come into operation by the end of this year.

To negotiate a free trade agreement covering a wide-range of issues with 10 countries at the same time is by no means a simple task. I would like to thank my colleagues in the Trade and Industry Department for their unremitting efforts over the past three years.

August 9, 2016