16 October 2023
HONG KONG – Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nationswith a free trade agreement in place, holds promising economic and trade cooperation potential that will promote the growth of small and medium-sized businesses and startups in the region, officials and industry leaders said Friday.
ASEAN has been Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner in terms of merchandise trade, after mainland China, since 2010, with the value at a record high of $165 billion last year, said Francis Ho Siu-hong, deputy director-general of Trade and Industry of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regions government.
The two sides saw 6.8 percent year-on-year growth in bilateral trade in services by 2021, Ho said during a session titled Electronics Industry and Startup: Outlook in Hong Kong and Cooperation with ASEAN at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair ( Autumn Edition).
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Ho said one of the key factors contributing to the robust and growing trade and economic relations between the two economies is the enforcement of the ASEAN-Hong Kong China Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA), which was signed in 2017 and entered into force in full in 2021.
Hong Kong is an important trade hub for the ASEAN countries as it is a good platform to facilitate marketing and investment in the international arena.
Wing Chu, Chief Economist (Greater China Research Team), HKTDC
“The agreements (referring to the AHKFTA as well as the investment agreement) improve trade and investment opportunities, reduce trade barriers and promote economic cooperation, benefiting businesses, including startups,” he said.
“I know there are a number of startups from Malaysia who have come all the way to Hong Kong to participate in this electronics fair under the economic and technical cooperation program developed under the free trade agreement.”
Kris Sandhi Soekartawi, Senior Project Officer of the AHKFTA ECOTECH Support Unit of the External Economic Relations Division of the ASEAN Secretariat, highlighted the benefits that the AHKFTA brings to SMEs in the region.
According to Soekartawi, the agreement gives ASEAN member states greater market access to Hong Kong’s dynamic economy, allowing ASEAN companies sixteen new investment opportunities, expanding their customer base and increasing their market share in the city.
It also contains provisions to support SMEs in the region. “The support includes capacity building initiatives, technical assistance and information sharing platforms. These measures aim to help SMEs seize the opportunities of the agreement and promote their integration into regional and global value chains,” he said.
Wing Chu, Chief Economist (Greater China Research Team) of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, emphasized that Hong Kong serves as a good platform for companies in the region to do business due to its lead in financial, trade and professional services.
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“Hong Kong is an important trade center for ASEAN countries as it is a good platform to facilitate marketing and investment in the international arena,” he said.
“We also offer a wide range of professional services that include investment planning, legal advice, etc. that meet the needs of businesses in ASEAN countries.”
Jayne Chan, head of StartmeupHK at InvestHK, said she believes Hong Kong provides a breeding ground for startups to grow.
“Hong Kong as one of the world’s financial centers, we have a lot of e-commerce companies, management as well as logistics technology companies setting up here,” she said.
“We found that Hong Kong startups are very robust and there is still a business opportunity here in Hong Kong.”
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As mainland China boasts the largest e-commerce market globally, Chan said many international companies interested in selling to the mainland market would choose Hong Kong as their first entry point.