Mainland Chinese commerce official backs Hong Kong joining RCEP trade bloc, with city leader Carrie Lam hoping to start talks ‘at earliest opportunity’
- China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Bingnan, says Beijing ‘proactively’ supports Hong Kong’s accession to the massive free-trade pact
- City leader Carrie Lam, meanwhile, says Hong Kong is ‘more than qualified’ to join
Addressing the audience of business leaders, Chinese vice-minister of commerce, Wang Bingnan, said he endorsed Hong Kong’s “very important role” in advancing the country’s development, and called for its accession to the deal.
“We proactively support Hong Kong in joining RCEP as early as possible, so that Hong Kong can further enhance its international and regional collaboration, as well as expand its own network,” he said.
Speaking at the same session, Xie Feng, Beijing’s top diplomat in Hong Kong, said that with mounting protectionism and unilateralism challenging globalisation, RCEP was evidence that differences in systems, values and stages of development were “not necessarily obstacles to win-win cooperation”.
“We should not form small circles to keep others out, draw ideological lines, resort to a zero-sum mentality … and pass judgments on other countries’ internal affairs,” Xie told the summit.
Now the world’s largest free-trade bloc, covering 2.2 billion people, the RCEP agreement encompasses 15 nations, including the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). The agreement also brings China, Japan and South Korea together in a trade pact for the first time, along with Five Eyes members Australia and New Zealand. Hong Kong, Taiwan and India were among the very few major Asian economies that were not signatories.
Hong Kong’s business leaders and officials have expressed hopes of being among the first economies to join the pact once it opens its doors to new members, with city finance chief Paul Chan Mo-po saying last week that it would benefit the business hub’s trade in services and investment.
She also vowed that Hong Kong would help to uphold a rules-based multilateral trade system, which she characterised as “essentially important” during the pandemic.
“Hong Kong is more than qualified to join the partnership … We are grateful for the clear support we received from some of the partnership member states,” she told the summit, which was co-organised by the government and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
“We look forward to beginning discussions on Hong Kong’s accession to the partnership at the earliest opportunity.”
The deal, signed on November 15, eliminates tariffs mainly for goods that already qualify for duty-free treatment under existing free trade agreements.