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Trade Freed up with CEPA Practice

Economic ties between Hong Kong and Macao and the mainland have been strengthened under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), said a senior official with the Ministry of Commerce.

Implemented in January last year, trade has gradually been liberalized, said Wang Liaoping, director of the ministry's Department of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs.

Under the arrangement, the mainland had imported zero-tariff goods worth about HK$1.6 billion (US$205.66 million) from the two regions by the end of April, with at least 100 million yuan (US$12 million) in tariffs exempted, Wang said.

The central government has opened the mainland's service sectors - for instance finance, insurance, securities, communications and telecoms - to Hong Kong and Macao businesses, said Wang.

So far, more than 700 Hong Kong companies and 200 Macao companies have invested in the mainland's service sectors.

Individual travel by mainland residents to Hong Kong and Macao has become another highlight of the CEPA process, Wang said.

Mainland public security departments have now signed and issued 13.8 million visas for individual travel. To date, at least 6.5 million have travelled to Hong Kong, 5.5 million to Macao.

Wang said the central government is consulting with Hong Kong and Macao authorities to accelerate trade liberalization in a bid to realize zero tariffs for all trade in the remaining months of the year.

"Hong Kong, with its advantages in services, has the potential to develop into the service center for the Pan-Pearl River Delta," said John C. Tsang, secretary for the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau of Hong Kong, speaking at the Mayors' Forum of Provincial Capitals in the delta in Fuzhou.

Tsang said Hong Kong is keen to play a more important role in firming up economic relations between cities in the region in sectors such as management, finance, logistics and transport. The region includes nine provinces and autonomous regions in Southeast, Central and Southwest China as well as Hong Kong and Macao.

The Hong Kong government is also aiming to form a platform to promote mainland enterprises going global, encouraging them to expand businesses in Hong Kong, said Tsang.

(China Daily May 28, 2005)

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