HK is seeking more Cepa concessions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 12:00am

In talks today in Beijing, wider access to mainland market in services will be sought

The Hong Kong government will seek more trade concessions from the mainland in talks in Beijing today, the city's trade minister said yesterday.

Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology John Tsang Chun-wah said the government would propose expanding Hong Kong's access to service industries on the mainland to areas such as education and environmental protection.

Under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa) signed between Hong Kong and the mainland, 273 categories of goods produced in the city can be exported tariff-free to the mainland. In addition, companies in 18 services sectors will enjoy preferential access to the mainland, giving them a lead over foreign competitors.

The Hong Kong government estimates Cepa will produce annual cost savings of $750 million for exporters.

The Cepa joint steering committee, comprising mainland and Hong Kong representatives, meets today for the first time in Beijing. Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen will hold talks with the mainland's vice-minister of commerce, An Min, to ensure smooth implementation of Cepa from January 1, when the trade agreement comes into force.

The committee is responsible for the implementation of Cepa, including the interpretation of provisions, resolution of disputes and drafting of new clauses and amendments.

'We will discuss what preparatory work needs to be done, what we can achieve and what we will be doing in future,' Mr Tsang said.

'There are plenty of suggestions around. For example, what else can be included in Cepa and how should we progress to the second stage [of the agreement],' he said.

'We will bring these issues out for discussion on further liberalisation.'

Asked if the government would propose early market access to the mainland for other service industries, such as education and environmental protection, Mr Tsang replied he would do so.

The financial secretary said it would take both sides some time to adapt to measures under Cepa.

'There may be some problems when Cepa begins,' Mr Tang said, 'but I am sure they can be resolved.'

Fifty-five Hong Kong customs officers will specialise in Cepa-related functions.