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ASEAN Chooses Free Trade over Protectionism: Experts’ Panel Discussion on the ASEAN Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement

The AHKFTA will facilitate greater Foreign Direct Investment from Hong Kong into the ASEAN region
8 February 2018
Bangkok, Thailand – The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), in partnership with the Thai-Hong Kong Trade Association, moderated an in-depth panel discussion entitled “How the ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement Benefits Your Business?”
The event, which was opened by Mr. Peter Wong, Regional Director, Southeast Asia and India, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), was the first major discussion between business leaders and policy experts in Thailand to examine the ASEAN-HK Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) since its official signing on November 12, 2017.  
The AHKFTA is designed to improve legal certainty, facilitate the movement of nationals and increase market access for trade in goods and services between ASEAN and Hong Kong.
Prior to the panel discussion, Mr. Nicholas Kwan, who is the Director of Research for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, gave a brief, detailed analysis of the AHKFTA and the potential impacts on trade relations between Hong Kong, ASEAN and China.
“The ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement provides clearer rules on investment and is establishing a dispute resolution mechanism, which would facilitate direct investment from Hong Kong, especially those in professional services like environment, education and technology. Hong Kong ranks second in the world after the US with an outward investment stock of US$1,528 billion, even ahead of Chinese mainland’s US$1,281 billion. This FTA offers opportunities for ASEAN members, especially Thailand in the development of high-end international services.”
The Acting Director General of Thailand’s Department of Trade Negotiations, Mrs. Auramon Supthaweethum, also offered insights on the AHKFTA from Thailand’s and ASEAN’s perspectives in her keynote address. “The Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN) strongly encourages all stakeholders to utilize the ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA which is expected to be entered into force on the 1st January 2019. DTN will be pleased to provide detailed information on the ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA upon request.”
The afternoon panel discussion was an informative back and forth exchange that gave the Thai business community its first chance to learn from and interact directly with experts on the AHKFTA, which included:
  • Mr. Nicholas Kwan, Director of Research, HKTDC
  • Mr. Phairush Burapachaisiri, Vice Chairman of Thai Chamber of Commerce
  • Mr. Sunny Chau, Director of Thailand & Southeast Asia, HKTDC (moderator)
The AHKFTA agreement is expected to come into force on January 1, 2019, at the earliest, subject to completion of the necessary procedures by Hong Kong and the ASEAN member states.
Hong Kong and ASEAN have close trade and economic ties. Bilateral merchandise trade between Hong Kong and ASEAN grew by an average of 3.4 percent annually from 2012 to 2016. ASEAN was Hong Kong's second largest trading partner in merchandise trade in 2016, with the total merchandise trade amounting to HK$833 billion.
The average annual growth rate for total Hong Kong-ASEAN trade in services was 3.1 percent from 2011 to 2015. ASEAN was Hong Kong's fourth largest trading partner in services trade in 2015, with the total services trade amounting to HK$121 billion.
Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC)
Established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body dedicated to creating opportunities for Hong Kong’s businesses. With more than 40 offices globally, including 13 on the Chinese mainland, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a platform for doing business with China, Asia and the world. With 50 years of experience, the HKTDC organises international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to provide companies, particularly SMEs, with business opportunities on the mainland and in international markets, while providing information via trade publications, research reports and digital channels including the media room. For more information, please visit: www.hktdc.com/aboutus.
Thai-Hong Kong Trade Association
The Thai-Hong Kong Trade Association (THTA) was established in 1996 to promote the development of trade and investment between Thailand and Hong Kong.  The THTA provides a point of exchange and coordination to improve business and opportunities in trade, industry, investment, finance, and other business activities in between Thailand and Hong Kong. The THTA works closely with other committees/associations to strengthen communication with key officials and organise regular meetings, business missions, and other activities such as seminars, luncheons, and social functions.  For more information, please visit:  http://thta.or.th/about-thta.
Mr. Nicholas Kwan
Nicholas joined HKTDC as the Director of Research in May 2013. His department provides in-depth and up-to-date analysis and advice on economic and trade issues, covering key industries and services in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and most major and emerging markets. Nicholas has over 30 years of experience of economic and business research, including more than six years at Standard Chartered Bank as its Asia Research Head, seven years working for the Hong Kong Monetary Authority covering both macro-economic and policy research, and 11 years at Merrill Lynch, finishing as its Asia Regional Chief Economist. Nicholas is a graduate of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and has an MBA degree from the UK’s Warwick University. He was also a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Areas of research include: Regional trade and economic integration, Asian economic development, international finance, monetary and fiscal policy, and investment strategy.