With the Cepa trade pact coming into effect tomorrow, many businesses in Hong Kong have not applied for certification under the arrangement. They are still drawing up their plans, the Trade and Industry Department said yesterday. The Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, which offers tariff-free exports on 374 types of products to the mainland for Hong Kong companies and easier access to 18 service sectors, promises to give local businesses the inside track on tapping the mainland market. But figures released at the end of last week by the department showed that only 44 companies had applied to be recognised under Cepa, and only 16 have been approved. Clement Leung Cheuk-man, a deputy director-general at the Trade and Industry Department, said companies were still trying to work out the best way to take advantage of Cepa. 'We believe we will need some time for the business community to warm up before they actually apply for a certificate of origin because it's ... really an adjustment of their own business strategy,' Mr Leung said. 'This involves a lot of complicated factors.' Telecommunications companies could apply for Cepa certification starting in October, while the 17 other types of service companies were allowed to begin applying in early November. Of the 16 companies that received approval, one was in advertising, six were in transport and logistics and three each were in telecommunications, distribution and banking. Mr Leung said only about a third of the 44 applications had been approved so far because most had arrived in the past two weeks. 'The bulk of them are still being processed. For the past two weeks, we have had a couple of holidays and there are people who have not submitted all the documents that we need, so that explains why only 16 applications have been approved,' he added. The department will work with all applicants to help them gain approval instead of rejecting them if, for example, they are missing required documents, Mr Leung said. There has been much interest in Cepa, with the Trade and Industry Department receiving more than 5,700 inquiries about the pact since September. There are also signs that foreign companies are interested, with law firm Baker & McKenzie saying this week that it is helping 10 multinational companies make applications.