© AFP/File | Ministers gather at the ASEAN meeting in Manila, where it was announced the group is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November
MANILA - 9 September 2017: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November, a Philippine government official said Saturday, following three years of talks.
The Chinese special administrative region began free-trade negotiations with ASEAN in 2014, four years after the 10-nation economic bloc signed a similar trade deal with China in 2010.
Hong Kong also completed negotiations on an investment pact with ASEAN, said Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo.
"This would... send a positive signal for the international community of ASEAN's resolute commitment to free trade and open markets," Rodolfo told reporters.
He gave no details of the two agreements, which dealt with lowering import duties and cutting barriers to investment.
The agreement was reached as ASEAN economic ministers held a dialogue in Manila Saturday with Hong Kong government officials.
ASEAN, an economic bloc with a combined population of more than 600 million, is Hong Kong's second-largest trading partner after mainland China, according to the territory's Trade and Industry Department website.
Hong Kong also acts as an important entrepot for trade between mainland China and ASEAN, an economic grouping made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
It has remained a separate customs entity from mainland China since the city's 1997 handover by Britain.
ASEAN members have established a free-trade area among themselves aiming to slash tariffs on most goods to zero and minimise non-tariff barriers. They have also signed free-trade deals with key trading partners such as Japan and China.
Rodolfo said the Hong Kong deals are to be signed in November, when the Philippines hosts an ASEAN summit.
ASEAN also has free-trade deals with India, Australia and New Zealand, and South Korea.