Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam affirms city’s commitment to free trade at her first Apec summit

Chief executive follows Chinese President Xi Jinping’s calls for open international trade at summit in Vietnam

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 11:09pm

Hong Kong remains committed to international free trade despite its potential to cause social problems – that was the message the city’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, took to her debut appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Like US President Donald Trump, Lam was among the fresh faces attending the Apec forum, busying herself on Friday with conversations and meetings with fellow leaders ranging from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Lam was closely toeing President Xi Jinping’s line by calling for open trade, which is seen as a competing vision to Trump’s.

“Free trade is blamed for social problems from time to time, giving rise to trade protectionism,” the chief executive said at a discussion session at the Apec CEO summit.

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“Every government should formulate policy initiatives and measures to respond to different social issues, including maintaining people’s standard of living, so they can benefit from free trade and economic development.”

Hong Kong will on Saturday sign the long-awaited free trade agreement with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which the Hong Kong government billed as the city’s second largest trading partner.

The ceremony will take place in Manila and be attended by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah.

Hong Kong has always been a “staunch supporter” of free trade and a rule-based multilateral trading system, Lam said.

She added that she believed free trade agreements can serve as building blocks for the liberalisation of multilateral trade.

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This year’s Apec summit, hosted in the Vietnamese resort town of Da Nang, is seen as a venue for competing agendas on trade between Xi and Trump.

Lam’s words appeared to be well-received by those in the audience wary of Trump’s “America First” anti-globalisation rhetoric.

“Important [remarks] by Carrie Lam, new CE of Hong Kong,” Pereric Hogberg, Sweden’s ambassador to Vietnam, wrote on Twitter.

Lam had lunch with fellow female leaders including Chile‘s Bachelet and newly elected New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was also attending Apec, will meet Lam in Hong Kong instead as he will visit the city on Sunday.