ECONOMY | Tony Chua, Hong Kong

Hong Kong and European Free Trade Association members ink free-trade pact

Trade in services, goods and in investment; and protection of intellectual property are covered in Hong Kong’s first free-trade agreement with the European economies.

Hong Kong and the member states of the European Free Trade Association, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, have signed a free-trade agreement, marking an important milestone in trade relations between both sides, according to a government report.

Acting Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So and European ministers signed the agreement in Schaan, Liechtenstein, on Tuesday.

The deal is Hong Kong’s first free-trade agreement with the European economies. It covers trade in services and goods as well as investment, and other trade-related issues such as protection of intellectual property. It is fully consistent with the provisions of the World Trade Organisation.

The agreement is expected to come into force around mid-2012.

Total bilateral merchandise trade between Hong Kong and the European Free Trade Association states amounted to $76 billion last year. The average annual growth rate was 13.8% from 2006 to 2010.

Total bilateral trade in services amounted to about $10 billion in 2009. The average annual growth rate was 8.2% from 2005 to 2009.

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