Hong Kong businesses are overwhelmingly optimistic that Cepa will benefit the city's economy, according to a new survey. But the report's authors warn not to expect instant gains. In a poll by the Hong Kong Productivity Council of 114 companies last week before the free-trade pact was signed, 93 per cent said they expected the agreement would be good for the economy. About two-thirds of respondents believed Cepa would help alleviate Hong Kong's soaring unemployment rate, which rose to 8.3 per cent in May, the highest on record. About half of the companies said they would set up or expand production in Hong Kong because of the agreement. Keung Wing-ching, the council's acting executive director, said most businesses reacted warmly to Cepa, but warned them not to expect too much from the agreement at first. 'I hope these people will not be disappointed if they don't see a boosting of the economy in the short term,' he said. He estimated that the benefits would not be seen until a year from now, partly because the elimination of import tariffs would not begin until January. 'Cepa is not intended for the short term, it's really for the medium and long term,' he said. The council, a quasi-government agency that helps businesses improve productivity, efficiency and competitiveness, polled 38 manufacturing and 76 service companies in industries including retail, advertising, the law and logistics. Meanwhile, Australian Chamber of Commerce chairman Alan Johnson said the agreement did not specify how foreign companies in Hong Kong could directly benefit from it. 'So far, it does not appear that Australian companies doing business in Hong Kong will directly benefit from Cepa,' he said.