EU Commissioner in Hong Kong on diplomatic offensive to promote agri-food trade

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European Agriculture Commissioner reassures strong trade ties between its member states and Hong Kong in face of growing uncertainty brought about by a likely Brexit.

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Union, made Hong Kong the first stop of his Southeast Asian trip to promote EU agri-food products on 1 November.

In 2015, the EU recorded a positive trade balance of 4.4 billion euro in agri-food trade, which constituted almost one-fourth of EU’s total world trade balance in the category. Hong Kong is now the seventh destination in the world for EU agri-food exportation.

The visit featured a meeting with the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, during which an agreement to standardise veterinary certification of meat products was finalised and will be put into effect early 2017. The two sides also agreed to set up a structural dialogue on sanitary issues, with other high-level talks on political, economic and social matters scheduled on 17 November in Brussels. Mr Hogan has also met with the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Gregory So Kam-leung to discuss strategic cooperation on investment in the future with the formal Brexit negotiation process expected to be launched by the end of March 2017.

“We had a message to Mr So that the 27 [currently 28] EU member states are open for business. […] We see potential synergies and opportunities in the future for Hong Kong. Its geographical location, its interest in financial services,  its interest in being an open and  transparent  common legal system as well as  developments in intellectual property, place Hong Kong in a favourable position as far as EU is concerned,” Mr Hogan noted.

Mr Hogan did however raise the alarm over a likely Brexit that it would adversely affect British farmers and the European market.

“The UK is a net financial contributor of 10 billion euro to the EU, but we do then develop programmes which deliver 3.2 billion pounds to the UK farmers. It would be the UK government that would have to work out its policies with its farming community and rural areas and decide whether they wish to subsidise the farming community around those programmes or not. But between now and 2020, it will be business as usual,” He said. “It’s a big challenge for the farming community that some of the leading spokespersons and ministers from the UK government are advocating a cheap food policy. […] A period of uncertainties is not helping the farmers in the UK, neither is it helping the economies in the EU.”

During his stay in Hong Kong the Irish politician has also visited the Chinese Culinary Institute at Vocational Training Council and gave a keynote speech at a welcoming section organised by the Irish commissions in Hong Kong.