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The Agreement on Achieving Basic Liberalisation of Trade in Services, under the framework of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), was signed by the Mainland and Hong Kong today (December 18). It is the first time that the Mainland has referred to international standards in drawing up an agreement that takes the form of a negative list to open its doors on trade in services with Hong Kong through a pilot scheme in Guangdong. The Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) welcomes the Agreement, which is based on the concept of “early and pilot implementation” designed to enhance competitiveness in services on both sides of the border and bring new opportunities for the various service industries in Hong Kong.
The BPA regards the Agreement’s adoption of a negative list as providing a higher degree of liberalization compared to the previous approach of a positive list. Under the former, only sectors that are excluded from the Agreement will be listed while under the latter, details are given on sectors that are opened to participation by Hong Kong enterprises and the measures involved. Under the negative list, there are no restrictions imposed on certain sectors such as advertising and real estate for which Hong Kong service providers and Mainland investors both enjoy the same national treatment.
The Agreement’s coverage also extends across a number of professional service sectors. One of these liberalization measures, which the BPA has long championed, is to encourage insurance companies in Guangdong to enter into RMB-denominated reinsurance arrangements with their insurance or reinsurance counterparts in Hong Kong. The BPA believes that Hong Kong’s advantage as an offshore RMB centre will help drive the further development of RMB insurance business in the SAR.