ASEAN studying Hong Kong’s accession to ACFTA
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Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan says that Southeast Asian nations are still studying whether Hong Kong should be made party to the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
“We need a comprehensive study before integrating Hong Kong into ACFTA because the accession should bring real benefits for all ASEAN members and ACFTA,” Gita told reporters in Jakarta on Friday.
Gita said that the Chinese government previously told ASEAN that there had been domestic pressure for China to sponsor Hong Kong’s accession to the ACFTA.
Hong Kong — a special administrative region of China — has communicated its desire to join ACFTA to the secretary-general of ASEAN and to participants of the ASEAN-China FTA Joint Committee Preparatory Meeting in October, Gita said.
According to the Trade Ministry, ASEAN is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner after China for trade in goods.
Six ASEAN member states — Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — are among the top 20 trading partners of Hong Kong.
In addition, China is Hong Kong’s largest partner for trade and services, while ASEAN is its fourth-largest partner.
“We welcome Hong Kong to join the ACFTA, but we still have to wait for the study because the decision must be made according to ASEAN consensus,” Gita added. The study is expected to be complete early
Hong Kong financial secretary John Tsang previously that Hong Kong’s advantage in financial services would help ASEAN member nations to obtain financing for their trade, Antara news agency reported.
Hong Kong’s strategic position as a logistics hub between ASEAN member nations and China would also be a great help to the association, Tsang said.
Separately, Gita said that Indonesian officials at the 44th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting also signed a bilateral agreement with Cambodia to import 100,000 tons of rice.
Indonesia previously signed deals with Thailand and Vietnam giving it the option to import rice in 2012.
Gita said that the government would continue to import rice to maintain buffer stocks due to forecasts predicting erratic weather.
“We will experience more weather anomalies in the near future while Indonesians consume a lot of rice — 140 kilograms per capita per year. Thus, we need up to 3 million tons as a buffer stock,” he said.
Bulog (State Logistics Agency) previously estimated that the nation’s rice production would top 38 million tons by the end of the year, up 4.3 percent from 2011.
With an assumption that total rice consumption this year will reach approximately 32.5 million tons, the government is expecting a 5.5 million-ton surplus at the end of the year.
Indonesia is the world’s third-largest rice consumer, with an annual intake of 139 kilograms per capita.
Despite being self-sufficient in 2008 and 2009, the country started to import rice after stockpiles fell and harvests failed in 2010.
In 2011, Indonesia imported 1.9 million tons of rice from Thailand, Vietnam and India, to ensure it had plentiful stocks and to avoid stoking food inflation.
“If we could decrease our consumption to 100 kilogram [per capita per year], we would not need to import rice,” Gita said.