Officials of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Hong Kong ( China ) have agreed that an ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) could yield mutual benefits, the ASEAN Secretariat said on April 2.

Preparations for the proposed AHKFTA negotiations are now underway, after the endorsement by the ASEAN Economic Ministers at the 19th AEM Retreat in March 2013 in Vietnam .

According to the Secretariat, the two sides shared the view during a visit to Hong Kong last week by ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh at the invitation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

During his visit, the Secretary-General met with high level officials who emphasised ASEAN’s importance to Hong Kong both as a rapidly growing economic region and as an organisation. With ASEAN now as Hong Kong’s second biggest trading partner after mainland China , there is much interest to pursue broader and deeper economic cooperation with ASEAN.

Secretary-General Minh also gave a keynote address on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the Credit Suisse Asia Investment Conference (AIC), in which he shared ASEAN’s accomplishments in terms of the regional economic integration and community building agenda, as well as the remaining challenges in establishing the AEC by 2015.-VNA