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Hong Kong and the Member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, signed a comprehensive free trade agreement (the agreement) in Liechtenstein on 21 June 2011. The agreement is Hong Kong`s first free trade agreement with European economies. This is an important step in our trade relations with the four EFTA countries. It will serve as a catalyst to strengthen bilateral trade and investment relations between the two sides. 14 Six months after the implementation of the agreement, projects are still progressing slowly, although some interest has been shown. Neither the business community nor the authorities have been under any illusions about this. For example, in November 2003, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the organization that promotes Hong Kong`s foreign trade and is a strong supporter of the EPA, stated that “the creation of production activities through the EPA is likely to be limited and the impact on job creation or trade flows should be moderate.” HKGCC draws attention to the existence of projects in the fields of textiles (Ralph Lauren), biotechnology (CK Life Sciences), chemicals, Chinese medical devices, perfumes and even the steel industry. The creation of a specific cross-border zone, in which Hong Kong companies could employ Chinese workers on the mainland, would undoubtedly increase the benefits of the EPA in this area. 2 With the exception of a series of these measures (opening in the telecommunications sector, issuing individual visas to tourists from parts of mainland China who visit Hong Kong …) implemented in the autumn of 2003, the agreement came into force on 1 January 2004. Both sides have pledged to continue negotiations for a further extension of the agreement.

The EPA complies with Article 24 of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) on bilateral agreements and is compatible with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, a condition essential to its implementation since both parties are separate members of the WTO. This is the first bilateral agreement signed by Hong Kong and the first signed by mainland China with a WTO member. On 7 September 2012, the Chilean and Hong Kong governments signed a free trade agreement in China at the APEC leaders` meeting in Vladivostok. The agreement contains provisions for trade facilitation (Annex V). Chapter 3 on trade in services covers the four services in the sense of the GATS and covers all service sectors. Separate annexes for financial services (Annex VIII) and telecommunications services (Annex IX) complete the chapter. Appendix VII obliges Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Hong Kong, China to negotiate disciplines on national regulations. The parties` commitments in the various sectors are envisaged in a negative approach in which the contracting parties individually state their reservations regarding market access, application or commitments of the MFN (Annex X). Hong Kong> Hong Kong is a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Despite China`s accession to the WTO, Hong Kong is well positioned to play a key role for the United States.