Trade ties with U.S. to expand with new flights: HK commissioner

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 NEW YORK, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Trade relations between China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the United States remain strong and are expected to strengthen in 2018, a senior official said here on Thursday.

U.S. exports to Hong Kong rose by 13 percent last year, with over 40 billion U.S. dollars worth of goods, making the city the ninth largest market for U.S. exporters, Clement Leung, Hong Kong commissioner for economic and trade affairs to the United States, said at a Spring Festival reception.

Hong Kong is the fourth largest market for U.S. beef and sixth largest for U.S. agricultural products.

The ties will be boosted with more direct flights to American cities in the coming months by Cathay Pacific Airways and Hong Kong Airlines, he said.

The commissioner also highlighted various initiatives that will expand Hong Kong's market and strengthen its connectivity with the Chinese mainland and the rest of Asia-Pacific.

Such initiatives include the free trade agreement (FTA) with ASEAN, FTA talks with Australia, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Greater Bay Area Development Strategy that will see Hong Kong's economy increasingly integrating with that of the Pearl River Delta in southern China.

Leung said Hong Kong has retained the title of the world's freest economy for 24 consecutive years. Its economy has grown by 3.5 percent, mainly driven by robust external trade, retail sales and tourism. The unemployment rate of 2.9 percent is the lowest over the last 20 years.

Joanne Chu, director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, also said the office will continue to organize and support events and activities to foster stronger business and cultural ties with U.S. eastern states.

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