In first three days, 10 apply for approval to sell goods tariff-free over the border Hong Kong manufacturers' initial response to the implementation of Cepa has been slow. But medicine producers have been quick to seek benefits from the free-trade pact. The Trade and Industry Department and five business groups have been handling applications by companies wishing to be certified under the agreement since Tuesday. On Thursday, the department received six applications, two from drugs firms. By yesterday, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce had received eight applications from medicine makers, said its chief executive, Eden Woon Yi-teng. One medicine maker won approval for tariff-free exports on Thursday - making it the first manufacturer to be certified under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. Cepa is expected to boost the economy by allowing Hong Kong companies to export 374 categories of goods to the mainland tariff-free, provided at least some of the manufacturing is done in the city. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Hong Kong Industries are among the industry groups handling applications. By the end of Thursday, four ink producers had also applied for made-in-Hong-Kong certification for their products. Mr Woon said: 'The response seems to be encouraging and Hong Kong exporters are already saving money from this. We would hope this trend continues.' Xinhua reported yesterday that the federation issued the first certificate of origin to a company planning to ship $360,000 worth of loquat paste, a Chinese herbal product, to the mainland. The shipment is scheduled to clear customs at the Man Kam To checkpoint on January 14. The eight medicine makers who applied through the Chamber of Commerce are expected to have approval to export by today. They will begin shipping tariff-free goods worth $4 million from Monday. Prior to Cepa, the tariff on most medicine exports to the mainland was 3 per cent. Mr Woon said companies stood to save about $130,000 on their initial shipments. Mr Woon expects the number of applications to accelerate. He predicts many manufacturers will not have finalised their plans until after Lunar New Year. The other bodies handling applications are the Indian Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Manufacturers' Association and the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce. One of them has not received any applications yet; another said that since most of its members were trading companies and not manufacturers, they would not be interested in applying. Under Cepa, the mainland will eliminate tariffs on goods including electronics, textiles, jewellery, clocks, watches and cosmetics. Some of these have been subject to tariffs as high as 35 per cent until now.