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Mainland, HK to Sign Free Trade Agreement
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government will sign an agreement on the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with the mainland in Hong Kong on June 30, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa told the press yesterday.

Under the direction of central government leaders and the hard work of concerned officials, substantial progress has been made in the negotiation process and the two sides are close to reaching an agreement.

Tung made the remark after meeting Liao Hui, Director of the Office of Hong Kong & Macao Affairs and Deputy Minister of Commerce An Min in Shenzhen yesterday morning.

He was accompanied by Financial Secretary Antony Leung and Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Henry Tang during the meeting.

The CEPA will not only bring substantial benefits to Hong Kong, but also help restore the confidence of the people of Hong Kong, he said.

"The agreement reflects the central government's care and support for Hong Kong. It is a starting point for our business sector and professionals to bring new dynamics to the Hong Kong economy,'' said Tung.

The mainland is undergoing rapid economic development and its market is vast, he continued.

"I am greatly confident that the agreement will help rejuvenate Hong Kong's economy,'' he added.

The agreement will involve trade in goods and services, and trade and investment facilitation. According to Tung, many Hong Kong products will benefit from zero tariffs.

Service trade will involve sectors including management consultant services, exhibitions and conventions, advertising, legal services, accountancy, medical services, real estate, construction engineering.

Tung said he was aware of the concerns regarding the origins rule and definition of Hong Kong companies.

But, he assured: "Having fully considered Hong Kong's role as an international metropolis, we have adopted more rules that are flexible and easy to monitor.''

For its part the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce welcomed the announcement.

"It will be of help to us as we recover from the SARS epidemic and we continue our economic restructuring,'' its chief executive officer Eden Woon said.

Andrew Leung, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Industries, said the zero tariffs would be advantageous to value-added industries such as jewellery, timepieces, toys and high fashion.

(China Daily June 17, 2003)

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