Xi expected to make Cepa announcement

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2008, 12:00am

It is believed Hong Kong has delayed releasing new Cepa measures so Vice-President Xi Jinping can make the announcement during a three-day visit beginning on Sunday, his first since being promoted to the post.

The Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement was signed on June 29, 2003. In the past two years, extensions to the free-trade pact have been announced on the signing anniversary. The announcements usually coincide with visits by high-ranking mainland officials.

Last year, Vice-Minister of Commerce Liao Xiaoqi was in Hong Kong to sign the fourth extension to the pact. In 2006, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, announced new measures during his visit.

Mr Liao bucked the trend in 2005, when he signed the second extension to Cepa on October 18, while then vice-minister of commerce An Min announced the first extension to Cepa in Beijing in August 2004. The Ministry of Commerce could not be reached for comment last night.

In Hong Kong, a Trade and Industry Department spokesman said any extension to Cepa would be announced 'in due course upon conclusion of discussions between Hong Kong and mainland authorities'.

The General Chamber of Commerce's senior director for business policy, Chan Wai-kwan, said he was told by the government a month ago that a further Cepa extension would be announced in the summer.

Cepa came into effect on January 1, 2004. It scrapped tariffs on some Hong Kong exports to the mainland and gave preferential treatment to parts of the services sector.

Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades president Simon Wong Ka-wo said he hoped for easier and expanded mainland market access for restaurant operators and food traders as soon as possible.

Gregory De'eb, who heads Crown Wine Cellars, hopes for dual customs recognition for wines going to the mainland via Hong Kong.