Hong Kong - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Agreements-Hong Kong & Macau

Describes trade agreements this country is a party to. Includes resources where U.S. companies can get information on how to take advantage of these agreements.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Despite mainland China’s accession to the WTO, Hong Kong is well-positioned to play a key role for U.S. firms wishing to expand exports to China, one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. Hong Kong is a trading hub for mainland China and the region; its trading firms are experts at promoting imported products and services in mainland China. Similarities in linguistic and cultural traditions have enabled Hong Kong traders to maximize opportunities for U.S. firms, and in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises and first-time exporters.

Hong Kong has a free trade agreement with mainland China, called the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), which provides tariff-free export to mainland China of Hong Kong-origin goods and preferential access for specific services sectors. Signed in 2003, CEPA has gradually expanded every year thereafter.  Under the CEPA framework, Hong Kong enjoys liberalized trade in services using a “negative list” that covers 134 service sectors for Hong Kong and grants national treatment to Hong Kong’s 62 service industries. Hong Kong also enjoys most-favored nation treatment, with liberalization measures included in the free trade agreements signed by Mainland China and other countries automatically extended to Hong Kong. In June 2017, Hong Kong and Mainland China signed an investment agreement and an economic and technical cooperation agreement. The investment agreement, effective from January 2018, includes provision of national treatment and non-services investment using a negative list approach.

In order to qualify as a Hong Kong company under CEPA, the company (including a subsidiary of a foreign company) must incorporate in Hong Kong, have been engaged in substantial business operations here for more than three years, and employ at least half of its staff in Hong Kong. In addition, foreign companies that have acquired or merged with a Hong Kong company on or after June 29, 2003, qualify after one year of operation as a Hong Kong company. For more information on CEPA, please visit: http://www.tid.gov.hk/english/cepa.

With the January 1, 2005 elimination of all remaining quotas on textile and apparel imports from WTO members, Hong Kong textile and apparel exports are no longer subject to quantitative restrictions. Hong Kong has signed a free-trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand, member states of the European Free Trade Association, Chile, Macau, ASEAN and Georgia, respectively. These FTAs are fully consistent with the provisions of the World Trade Organization. Hong Kong is negotiating FTAs with the Maldives and Australia. Finally, Hong Kong is an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) member economy and a participant in the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) Scheme, which grants qualified business travelers streamlined immigration clearance.

Macau

A separate and roughly equivalent Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement was signed between mainland China and Macau in 2003. While not as expansive as that of Hong Kong, it includes a number of industry areas where Macau-based firms are granted preferential access to the mainland market. In addition, Macau signed a CEPA with Hong Kong in October 2017. More information on these CEPA agreements can be found at: http://www.cepa.gov.mo.