THE government is modifying the tariffs on products from Hong Kong, China and ASEAN member states as part of its commitments under a free trade agreement.

Executive Order No. 102 imposes the tariff rates agreed upon in the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) on products entering the Philippines for consumption.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte ratified the AHKFTA on Jan. 4, 2019, after it was first signed by the Philippines in November 2017 in Manila. Representatives from ASEAN member states signed the agreement in Myanmar in March 2018.

The FTA first began to take effect in June, after Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, and Vietnam started reducing and eliminating tariffs on Hong Kong imports.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations said in a statement in June that the Philippines upon ratification will eliminate customs duties on 85% of the products it trades with Hong Kong, and deduct 10% of tariff lines within 14 years.

Exporters must submit a certificate of origin, as part of the rules of origin in AHKFTA.

The order dated Jan.10 said that the Tariff Commission “may be requested to issue advance rulings on tariff classification of goods to confirm the applicable rates of duty of particular goods subject of this order.”

The government however retains its right to issue trade remedy measures to prevent import surges, which harm domestic industries, and unfair trade practices.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Hong Kong was the Philippines’ ninth-largest source of imports in November, bringing in $337.83 million worth of goods to the Philippines that month.

Hong Kong accounted for $3.3 billion worth of imports in the first 11 months of 2019, or 3.3% of total imports to the Philippines.

The order takes effect immediately after its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation. — Jenina P. Ibañez