Gov’t supports working women

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

There are numerous examples of prominent female leaders in our private sector. And their leadership has blazed a trail for women.

 

I believe that access to education is critical to enabling women to participate fully in all areas of our society. In this, much has been achieved in Hong Kong over the past 20 years. In 1921, the University of Hong Kong admitted its first female student. In the years since, we have achieved gender equality in education, and our female students are excelling academically.

 

Females now represent nearly 55% of the students enrolled in programmes funded by our University Grants Committee in the 2016-17 academic year. That’s up 6% over 1996-97 totals.

 

In some disciplines traditionally perceived to be male dominated, the percentage of female students has also increased considerably. The percentage of female students studying medicine, for example, has soared over these past two decades – rising from some 37% 20 years ago to more than 51% last year. The percentage of female students majoring in engineering and technology has also more than doubled over the last 20 years – from just over 14% to 29.5% last academic year.

 

In the workplace, women in Hong Kong enjoy equal employment opportunities and are protected under the same labour legislation as men. The female labour force participation rate has increased from some 45% in 1996 to nearly 51% in 2016. But this is an area that this government will work harder at, because I noticed that even at 51% female labour participation rate, there is room for doing better, especially when Hong Kong is facing a major labour shortage in time to come.

 

In the professional field, women last year made up 48% of Hong Kong’s solicitors and 50% of our public accountants, compared to 32% and 33% respectively 20 years ago.

 

Over that same period, women’s share of managerial positions has gone from about 20% to 33%. In short, women today take up one in every three Hong Kong managerial positions.

 

At the top management level, the news is less encouraging, I’m afraid. About 12% of the board directors of Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index companies are women. Still, that compares favourably with Singapore at under 10%, Japan at 3.4%, and South Korea at just over 4%.

 

Hong Kong, of course, must – and will – do better in this regard. But it will demand your concerted efforts to create a more enabling corporate environment in Hong Kong.

 

Turning to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, the news is mixed. We have only two female Principal Officials in the new-term Government – myself and the Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan. I did admit openly that I failed miserably in getting more female leaders on to my team and there is a long story to tell you why I failed. That said, 10 of the 19 Permanent Secretaries – the highest rank in our civil service – are women.

 

And, as of 2016, more than one-third, 35.7% to be exact, of our senior civil service colleagues, at the what we call the directorate grade level, are women. That, I should add, is a promising leap from just over 15% 20 years ago.

 

In social and political participation, last year the number of female registered electors was up more than 44% over 1998, while the corresponding increase in male registered electors was less than 27%.

 

For Government-appointed advisory and statutory board and committee members, some 32% of the non-official members are now women, up from about 17% in 1996. And we are working towards a benchmark of 35%.

 

Government has an important role to play in encouraging the advancement of women. We are doing so through policy-making, public engagement and international collaboration.

 

Allow me now to give you a bit of background. The protection of women’s rights in Hong Kong is enshrined in the Basic Law, our constitutional document. Article 25 of the Basic Law stipulates that all Hong Kong residents are equal before the law. Local legislation is also in place to protect women against domestic violence, sexual discrimination and other inequities.

 

The Sex Discrimination Ordinance, enacted in 1996, makes discrimination unlawful on the grounds of sex, marital status or pregnancy, and sexual harassment. It also provided for the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission, created to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity between women and men.

 

In 2015, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance was amended to protect service providers from sexual harassment by their customers. Protection was extended to service industries with a large number of female practitioners, including nurses, waitresses, flight attendants and salespersons.

 

Hong Kong is no less committed to safeguarding women’s rights in line with international principles. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women was extended to Hong Kong in 1996. Hong Kong submits regular reports to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as part of China’s periodic reports.

 

In response to the committee’s recommendations, we established the Women’s Commission in 2001. It develops long-term strategies, advises the Government and champions women’s causes in Hong Kong. It also maintains close ties with more than 300 local women’s groups and relevant service agencies, as well as international organisations.

 

With the commission’s advice, gender mainstreaming was introduced to the Government in 2002.

 

Since 2002, the Government has applied a Gender Mainstreaming Checklist to various policy and programme areas. Today, all government bureaus and departments must apply gender mainstreaming in formulating major government policies and initiatives.

 

To raise awareness of gender-related issues in the business community, the Government set up a Gender Focal Point network among listed companies here last December. Over 160 listed companies are using Gender Focal Points. In addition, the Women’s Commission has organised a variety of activities to enhance corporate understanding of gender issues and create an environment in which female colleagues can excel.

 

The commission also established the Capacity Building Mileage Programme to help women. The programme is used in more than 80 women’s groups and NGOs across Hong Kong. To date, more than 94,000 participants have enrolled.

 

A Funding Scheme for Women’s Development was launched by the commission in 2012. It provides funds for women’s groups and NGOs, helping them organise programmes and activities conducive to women’s development. The funding scheme’s theme, “Women’s Employment”, complements the Government’s work in motivating more women to join the labour force. To date, it has funded more than 90 organisations and over 240 projects.

 

As a working mother, I firmly believe that the Government should help women enter, or remain, in the workforce, creating conditions that allow them to maintain a work-life balance. To that end, the Government is enhancing childcare and elderly services support, strengthening training and employment services and promoting family-friendly employment practices.

 

For childcare services, we provide about 7,000 places at some 250 subsidised childcare centres and kindergarten and childcare centres. And we are continually enhancing these services. We have, for example, given additional funding to allow existing facilities to extend their service hours. We are now conducting a study on the long-term development of our childcare services. In this school year, we have introduced free quality kindergarten education for all kids in Hong Kong. For many of these kindergartens, we are encouraging them to provide extended, whole-day service so as to relieve women who need to go out to work.

 

The Government is also strengthening elderly care services, while providing support for those who care for elderly persons. That includes women who care for elderly persons at home.

 

In support of female employment, the Employees Retraining Board has offered more than 700 training courses straddling 28 industries and generic skills. About 82% of the trainees in board courses today are women. The board has also launched schemes allowing trainees to attend courses according to their own schedules.

 

In the workplace, a family-friendly environment is essential in creating equal opportunities for men and women. To that end, the Government has legislated numerous employment benefits, including rest days, maternity leave and paternity leave.

 

The biennial Family-Friendly Employers Award Scheme has become a key initiative in engaging the business sector’s buy-in. Last year, more than 2,700 companies and organisations participated in the award programme.

 

I assure you, I will work with Hong Kong business and the Hong Kong community to expedite and expand opportunities for women, on both the private and public sectors.

 

Our continuing prosperity is predicated on full and equal opportunity, at the highest levels – at all levels – for both men and women.

 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the WomenCorporateDirectors 2017 ASPAC Institute conference.

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HK scaling new heights

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Since taking office on July 1 this year, many people asked how do I feel as the Chief Executive. Others take the view that since I have been in Government for over 30 years and rising through the ranks to become the Chief Secretary, it should be a seamless transition to the position of Chief Executive. But I am sharing with you tonight that there are indeed some adjustments to make. 

 

First is my dress. As the first lady Chief Executive, there is a legitimate expectation that I should dress well, and put on local designs to showcase Hong Kong’s fashion brand. But you know couture pieces are not always affordable by a government official. Tonight’s outfit is the second piece I have ordered from a renowned local designer who made my dusty pink outfit on my inauguration day. This naturally reflects the importance I attach to this occasion. The second adjustment I have to accommodate is my bodyguards. Although they may not be as charming as Kevin Costner, they are perfectly professional, reliable and discreet. But that discipline of giving advance notice to anything I want to do and the loss of opportunities to be alone on the streets, in the markets or in the countryside are something I still have to get used to. The third experience, a more serious one, is to come out to speak to, and act for, the people of Hong Kong, whenever they are anxious or in distress and look up for some leadership. 

 

Although many people congratulated me on a great start, Hong Kong has not had a quiet three months. Four members of the Legislative Council have been disqualified by the court, while another two have their appeals rejected; several student activists have been imprisoned following a sentence review by the Court of Appeal; banners and posters advocating independence of Hong Kong have appeared in our university campuses; several typhoons hit Hong Kong including one with a signal no.10, the first one since 2012; teachers worried about job loss by a sudden drop in student numbers because of policy changes in Shenzhen; and students anxious about their studies in the United Kingdom because of hiccups in the issue of visas. All these require immediate actions and unequivocal response which fall on the shoulders of the Chief Executive: there is simply no room for wait-and-see or delegation.

 

Last year on this occasion, I took the non-conventional step of showing you a short video during my speech. That was about our collaboration with the British Council to put on Event Horizon – Hong Kong featuring Sir Antony Gormley’s distinct life-sized sculptures atop Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. I noticed that that was quite well received. So, tonight, I am going to show you another four-minute video, this time specially produced for this event and has never been screened before. So, let’s watch the video.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, yes, the best of Hong Kong is yet to come. As the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong, I am full of confidence and optimism. I have said during my election campaign and on many occasions, as long as we get our act together, adopt a clear vision and embrace the many opportunities in front of us, Hong Kong will scale new heights. 

 

Why? First of all, Hong Kong will continue to succeed under “one country, two systems”, enjoying the unique advantages which Shanghai and Singapore, both highly competitive and thriving cities, do not have. In his very important speech delivered in Hong Kong on July 1 this year, President Xi Jinping has again pledged the nation’s support for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. From CEPA to a comprehensive agreement on Hong Kong’s participation in the Belt & Road; from Shanghai – Hong Kong Stock Connect and Shenzhen – Hong Kong Stock Connect to Bond Connect launched in July this year, Hong Kong occupies this unrivalled position as the world’s largest offshore renminbi centre. I am much encouraged by my first official trip to Beijing last month meeting a total of 16 ministries, commissions and organisations including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in which Hong Kong became a member this June. Various plans and agreements are underway to enhance Hong Kong’s co-operation with the Mainland. Indeed, immediately upon returning to Hong Kong on Saturday, I will be meeting with the Minister of Science & Technology of the Central People’s Government to discuss Hong Kong’s development in technology. 

 

Second, the good things you have seen about Hong Kong from the video are underpinned by core values including the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, a robust legal aid system ensuring access to justice, as well as freedom and rights guaranteed under the Basic Law. It is therefore extremely disturbing for me to learn that some politicians and commentators here in the UK are querying the independence of our judges over recent judgements, without any sound basis. Those comments are totally unfair to our judicial system which has gained worldwide recognition and disrespectful of our judges, including illustrious UK judges who sit on our Court of Final Appeal as non-permanent judges.

 

Third, at a time when public order seems to be at a disarray, and my sympathy goes to victims of several terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong remains one of the safest cities in the world. Our total crime rate, at 852 per 100,000 population, is the lowest since 1972. But there is no room for complacency. Our law enforcement agencies will step up surveillance and international co-operation to strengthen our preparedness and combatting ability.

 

Fourth, Hong Kong is not just any Chinese city. We have the experience and skills of doing business with the outside world for over half a century. Our international outlook and connectivity has given us an edge and the high degree of autonomy we enjoy in conducting our external affairs, as provided for under the Basic Law, has enabled us to grow that relationship in the past 20 years as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. We now have a network of 12 economic and trade offices in the world, with the latest addition being the Jakarta office as our second office in ASEAN; we are committed to open new offices in South Korea, India, the Middle East, etc; we have just concluded a free trade agreement with ASEAN; we have commenced FTA negotiations with Australia; we have agreed with the UK government to start a strategic dialogue on trade partnership and have just signed a Fintech-bridge agreement with the UK government; we have plans to enter into more comprehensive agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and investment promotion and protection agreements; and Hong Kong businesses are now a major source of FDI to many countries.

 

Finally, the new term of the HKSAR Government that I lead has a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of urgency. We know Hong Kong cannot rest on her laurels and there are many policy decisions we need to take, many investments we need to make and many people we need to connect in order to stay competitive. We know our people want us to tackle the housing shortage, provide better education, look after the disadvantaged and care for the elderly as our population ages. My team of Principal Officials, two of whom are joining me on this London trip – Edward Yau, the Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development, and James Lau, the Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury – is sparing no time in rolling out their respective plans and engaging their respective stakeholders. There are so many friends and supporters of Hong Kong in the audience tonight. I cannot thank you more for what you have done for Hong Kong over the years. I am sure you will continue to give us your wise counsel and speak up for Hong Kong when this city you love is being unfairly attacked. On our part, we will unveil the best of Hong Kong and welcome you to our wonderful city.

 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Annual Dinner in London.

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HK a startup hub

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

First and foremost, congratulations to everyone involved in bringing the MIT Innovation Node to Hong Kong. We are all very excited to see the results of this collaborative endeavour.

 

Through its Innovation Node, MIT brings more than 150 years of history to Hong Kong under the inspirational motto: “Mens et Manus“, or “Mind & Hand”, a motto that gives equal weight to both the acquisition of knowledge and the practical application of ideas and concepts. This philosophy resonates with Hong Kong.

 

In Hong Kong we nurture a positive environment for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship to flourish. As mentioned in my manifesto, my Government will be determined and confident in developing I&T, and will play its role as “facilitator” and “promoter” to the full. We have all the ingredients to succeed in this area. With unique advantages under “one country, two systems”, we have access to the huge Mainland market and the manufacturing hub of the Pearl River Delta provides ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to convert concepts into real products and services. At the same time, our competitive advantages are underpinned by free flows of ideas, talent and capital. Intellectual property is highly valued and it is protected under our common law system.

 

It is true that we are short of space, Richard. But as the Chief Executive, I promise you that better things are coming. We are building a Hong Kong-Shenzhen I&T hub with a total GFA (gross floor area) of 1.2 million square metres. So, if my mental calculation still serves me well, that will be 2,400 times the size of the MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node.

 

The Government will spare no effort in realising Hong Kong’s potential. In particular we will continue to strengthen our connectivity with neighbouring Mainland cities. Soon-to-be-completed mega cross-boundary projects, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, will bring us closer together. We are also moving ahead with, I just mentioned, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation & Technology Park project in an area called the Lok Ma Chau Loop – a future hub for R&D collaboration. In addition, we will support startups at different stages of development through various funding and incubation programmes at the Science Park and the Cyberport.

 

Seizing these opportunities, more and more startups are being launched in Hong Kong and we are regarded as one of the fastest-growing technology startup ecosystems in the world. This ecosystem is further enhanced, of course, by the Innovation Node, providing MIT’s latest best innovation practice and ideas and engaging young people in a lively makerspace and startup accelerator environment that I just had a chance to talk to some students. We look forward to more synergistic collaborations between MIT and our local universities, helping to translate the R&D results to commercial success.

 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Hong Kong Innovation Node opening ceremony on September 24.

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HK gateway to Mainland market

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

The first “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” symposium was held here in London in 2011. In addition to a main symposium in London, there were also a range of seminars held in Leeds and Edinburgh. Following the overwhelming response to that very first series, the “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” symposiums were then held in Japan, the US, France, Italy, Canada and Germany. In my former capacity as the Chief Secretary, I attended last year’s “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” symposium held in Dusseldorf after a short London programme.

 

These promotional and business events were very warmly received. The year of 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). To further enhance bilateral trade ties between the UK and Hong Kong, we are returning to the UK to stage the “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” symposium in London. Bringing together 50 high-profile speakers, the symposium and thematic sessions will showcase Hong Kong’s role as Asia’s service centre and a gateway to business opportunities in the East.

 

We treasure our long-standing trade and economic relationship with the UK. In 2016 the UK was Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner among the European Union member states and we were the UK’s eighth largest trading partner outside the EU. As at end-2015, the UK was also the eighth largest source of inward direct investment into Hong Kong, with a total stock amounting to GBP21.6 billion. Some 650 British companies have set up their businesses in Hong Kong; more than half, 347 to be exact, are using Hong Kong as their regional headquarters or regional offices.

 

Despite the continuous opening up of the Mainland China economy, Hong Kong continues to be an ideal gateway for foreign companies, including, of course, British companies, to tap the fast-growing Greater China market. The unique advantages that Hong Kong enjoys under “one country, two systems” and our very strong commercial links with the Mainland of China naturally make us the preferred location for doing business in Asia.

 

Added with our fundamental strengths, including the rule of law, free flow of capital and information, a business-friendly environment, a diverse and international talent pool, and a low and simple tax regime, Hong Kong is named the most competitive economy in the world in the International Institute for Management Development 2016 and 2017 Yearbooks, and one of the top five in the World Bank’s chart for ease of doing business. We also take pride in being named as the world’s freest economy for 23 consecutive years by the Heritage Foundation. Talking about low taxes, I should add that as promised in my election manifesto, we will introduce measures to make our tax system even more competitive by reducing the tax burden on SMEs and startups through a two-tier profits tax system and providing a higher level of tax deductions to incentivise corporations to invest in R&D. In addition, I will convene a Tax Summit later this year to receive more feedback and ideas.

 

Hong Kong’s position as a gateway for business to tap into the Mainland China market is supported by facilitating policies adopted by the Central Government. For instance, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or CEPA in short, signed with Mainland China in 2003 and enriched annually thereafter provides tariff-free treatment for trade in goods and liberalisation measures for trade in services for Hong Kong service providers. Under the CEPA framework, the two sides signed the Agreement on Achieving Basic Liberalisation of Trade in Services in Guangdong in 2014 and the Agreement on Trade in Services in 2015. The former, the first one drawn up by the Mainland in the form of pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list, achieves early basic liberalisation of services trade between Guangdong and Hong Kong. It was followed by the latter which further enhances the liberalisation in both breadth and depth, and extends the implementation of the majority of Guangdong pilot liberalisation measures to the whole of the Mainland. The beauty of CEPA is: it is nationality neutral. British companies establishing a presence in Hong Kong or working with a Hong Kong partner can enjoy the same access treatment to the massive market of Mainland China.

 

Apart from the Mainland market, we are strengthening our relationship with the ASEAN economies which are growing fast and have tremendous collaboration potentials with Hong Kong. Our negotiation with ASEAN on a free trade agreement has concluded recently and we will sign the free trade agreement, together with a related investment agreement, in November this year. Our agreements with ASEAN, coupling with CEPA, would provide a solid platform to further enhance the flows of trade and investment between Hong Kong and ASEAN. Again, British companies could enjoy the unimpeded trade flow and facilitation measures if they use Hong Kong as a base in Asia or partner with Hong Kong service providers.

 

Beyond China and ASEAN, Hong Kong now enjoys unique opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative. First announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, “Belt & Road” refers to the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the seafaring 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The Initiative spreads across Asia, Europe and Africa, covering over 60 countries, accounting for 30% of the world’s GDP and more than 30% of the world’s merchandise trade. It is forecast that by 2050, the countries and regions along the Belt & Road will contribute 80% of global GDP growth.

 

The Initiative will be the main global growth engine over the next few decades, with strong emphasis on connectivity and international co-operation. It features co-operation priorities in enhancing policy co-ordination, strengthening infrastructural connectivity, facilitating unimpeded trade, deepening financial integration and building people-to-people bonds among countries along the routes. In short, the Belt & Road Initiative offers numerous and substantial opportunities to participating economies.

 

In addition to Hong Kong’s strategic location at the centre of Asia, our extensive international trade networks, world-class infrastructure, well-connected communication and transport networks, and a rich pool of professionals have underpinned our role as a key financial, trading and logistics centre in the region.

 

Specifically, the Belt & Road Initiative will increase the volume and intensity of international investment flow, as well as the two-way investment traffic in and out of the Mainland. Hong Kong is experienced in carrying out project finance in both public and private markets, and makes available a great variety of financing avenues – we top global ranking in fund-raising in initial public offerings, and offer syndicated loans, private equity funds, bonds, sukuk, etc. We are also Asia’s centre of asset and risk management, insurance and re-insurance, and corporate treasury services. Hong Kong is well placed to meet the rising demand for fund-raising and financial management services for the Belt & Road projects.

 

Behind the investment projects in the Belt & Road, a variety of professional services are required to turn plans into reality: investment and risk assessment, research, financing, insurance, accounting, legal services and dispute resolution, consultation, planning, design, construction and project development, operation management and capacity building, etc. With our clear competitive edge in the provision of professional services, one shining example is our MTR Corporation which will operate Crossrail in London. Hong Kong is best positioned to play a key role in translating the Initiative into tangible benefits for Hong Kong enterprises and professionals. Indeed, many Hong Kong-based companies are already participating in projects in countries along the Belt & Road.

 

As in the case of CEPA, the Central Government provides great backing and support to Hong Kong’s participation in the Belt & Road Initiative. During my first visit to Beijing as Chief Executive last month, I have secured upon my request the agreement that the HKSAR will enter into a comprehensive agreement with the National Development & Reform Commission of the Central People’s Government on Hong Kong’s participation in the Belt & Road. We are earnestly working on the draft which will cover all the five areas of connectivity and we expect to have this signed within this year.

 

Meanwhile, we are already preoccupied with promotions and business matching. We have so far held two Belt & Road Summits in Hong Kong in May 2016 and September 2017, that is earlier this month, respectively. This year’s summit, with the theme “From Vision to Action”, attracted around 3,000 government and business leaders from some 50 countries and regions. They gathered to discuss the Initiative’s latest developments and examine the opportunities for different sectors. The summit had included project presentations and one-on-one business matching meetings, connecting investors, project owners and service providers, demonstrating Hong Kong’s role as an effective platform and a key link for the Belt & Road.

 

Hong Kong will also play an important role in what is now called the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development, another major initiative announced by Premier Li Keqiang in his annual work report earlier this year. The fast growing Bay Area covers Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong Province and has a total population of over 66 million. The gross domestic product of this city cluster is over US$1.3 trillion, comparable to that of Australia or the Republic of Korea. The Bay Area is also the most affluent region in China. Thanks to enhanced connectivity through major transport infrastructure such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Guangdong-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail, this development plan will further facilitate the flow of people, goods, capital and information in the region, and presents enormous business opportunities for Hong Kong and overseas businesses. One of the highlights in the blueprint for the Bay Area economy is the development of an international innovation and technology hub, combining the strength of Hong Kong and our neighbouring city Shenzhen. A deal has already been signed in January this year to set up a joint Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation & Technology Park on an 87-hectare site in Hong Kong, adjacent to Shenzhen.

 

Being the country’s most international city, not only can Hong Kong benefit from the advantage of “one country” and the convenience of “two systems”, it can also serve as a “a hub for international trade and investment” in the Bay Area. Fully leveraging its unique position as international financial, transportation and trading centres, a global offshore renminbi business hub and an international asset management centre, Hong Kong will become a platform connecting the Bay Area with the rest of the world, bring in foreign businesses and investment, and join hands with Mainland companies to “go global”.

 

As Asia continues to drive the global economy’s growth, we welcome British companies interested in exploring new business opportunities in the East to partner with Hong Kong in their search for success. I am delighted that the Hong Kong and UK Governments have agreed to launch a Strategic Dialogue on Trade Partnership, where we can examine the existing trade environment of both markets and identify priority areas to strengthen our mutual trade interests for future collaboration. Our aim is to build on our already very strong economic ties. I look forward to our Governments working together, and with businesses, to identify further enhancements that may facilitate and grow our bilateral trade and investments over the coming years.

 

I must also add that the strong ties between Hong Kong and the UK are not only about business. We do also have a lot of collaborations between our Governments and our people, say in education, design, and arts and cultural fields. I am glad to note that our multifaceted exchanges with the UK will be given further impetus, with the UK Government set to launch the GREAT Festival of Innovations in Hong Kong next March, showcasing what the UK can offer in terms of trade, professional services, innovation and creative industries. I am sure that the campaign will bring us even closer in all respects.

 

Hong Kong has what you need in a strategic partner for the 21st century. The opportunities before us are in abundance. As the new Chief Executive of the HKSAR who has over 37 years of solid experience in government, I want to assure you not only through my promising words, but rewarding deeds. I look forward to joining hands with our friends in the UK to realise the opportunities ahead.

 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” symposium in London.

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Developing a smart city

Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung

Enhancing city management and improving people’s livelihood through I&T are key to sustaining the development of smart metropolises like Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government attaches great importance to the smart development of the city. To this end, we have set up the Innovation & Technology Fund (ITF) to promote innovation and finance-applied research and development projects that contribute to I&T upgrading in industries in Hong Kong. There are various funding programmes under the ITF, including the Innovation & Technology Support Programme, the University-Industry Collaboration Programme, the Enterprise Support Scheme and the Patent Application Grant. One of the key purposes of these funding programmes is to encourage more research and development collaborations between universities and enterprises, thereby promoting re-industrialisation.

 

We have also established a $2 billion (US$260 million) Innovation & Technology Venture Fund, partnering with private venture-capital funds to help finance promising local technology startups. We have also introduced the $500 million (US$64 million) Innovation & Technology Fund for Better Living to encourage the use of I&T in developing projects that bring more convenience, comfort and safety to daily living. To give further impetus to I&T development in Hong Kong, we have reserved $10 billion (US$1.3 billion) for this good cause.

 

To gear up for a new era of economic and technological transformation, the Hong Kong Science & Technology Park Corporation and the Hong Kong Applied Science & Technology Research Institute jointly operate the Smart City Innovation Centre. It serves as a communications platform for research and development professionals, technology companies, business enterprises, startups and public service providers to develop innovative solutions such as fintech, 5G, smart governance and smart living.

 

Smart city blueprint

The Government has also completed a study that aims to formulate an overall smart city framework for Hong Kong. The study report stresses the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors and proposes a strategic framework that covers short-term, mid-term and long-term measures in six key areas that are key components of our daily lives, namely mobility, living, environment, people, government and economy. We are seeking views from the public and will analyse the comments and suggestions collected before we finalise the smart city blueprint for Hong Kong.

 

While we are moving towards the smart city target at full speed, we put great emphasis on engineering the re-industrialisation movement in Hong Kong. To achieve this objective, we need a critical mass of local smart industries to work together to advance the value and creativity chains through I&T. The Government is determined to support the development in the process and strive to promote smart production, attract high-value-added technology and encourage high-value-added manufacturing processes.

 

The Hong Kong Science Park currently provides a total of 330,000 sq m of office area in 21 office blocks, with a view to building a tech-based ecosystem that connects stakeholders, nurtures talent, facilitates collaboration and drives innovation to commercialisation. To facilitate the long-term innovation and technological development in Hong Kong, we are fully committed to supporting the $4.4 billion (US$560 million) expansion of the Hong Kong Science Park for local I&T industries. Two buildings will be built on a 1.18-hectare site west of Science Park Phase Three. By 2020, the new 14- and 15-storey towers will provide 22% more office space than is currently available. In addition, a Data Tech Hub and an Advanced Manufacturing Centre are being developed by Hong Kong Science Park at its Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate for completion in early 2020s.

 

Inno-tech park

Another exciting development is the 87-hectare Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation & Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop area near our boundary with Shenzhen. This will complement the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area. A key base for co-operation in scientific research will be established in the park. Potential areas for development include robotics, biomedicine, smart city and financial technology. The loop will be a powerful engine to create more synergy with Shenzhen’s strong manufacturing capabilities and new platforms to tap into the huge Mainland market, taking co-operation among the industry, academic and research sectors to a new height.

 

However, the Government’s effort alone is never enough. We need the support and participation of different sectors of the community. The Hong Kong Productivity Council has all along been the Government’s important partner in transforming our local enterprises into smart enterprises. Earlier this year, we engaged the council to establish an Inno Space to provide workspace and technical support to assist users in turning their innovative ideas into industrial designs and even further to become products. The Inno Space is designed for public use and will commence operation later this year. I encourage our startup entrepreneurs, students and graduates to make good use of this wonderful innovative facility.

 

The council also plays an active part on the international level in promoting smart industry. It was officially accredited as an Industry 4.0 Expert by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology in 2016 and since then has organised a series of activities including the Industry 4.0 Upgrade & Recognition Programme to help relevant industries gain a better understanding of Industry 4.0.

 

I feel most encouraged to note that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will officially open its Hong Kong Innovation Node in the Hong Kong Productivity Council Building this Sunday (September 24). The focus of this innovative institute is on cultivating the innovation capabilities of our students, increasing opportunities and accelerating the path from idea to impact, working together with alumni, affiliates and friends in the community to help galvanise the region’s innovation ecosystem. The Innovation Node will certainly deepen MIT’s links to Hong Kong and the region, while strengthening Hong Kong’s position in the Bay Area development and the Belt & Road Initiative.

 

Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung made these remarks at the International Conference on Smart Future: A Global Perspective held by Hong Kong Productivity Council on September 21.

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Education a policy priority

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung

The extraordinary story of Lingnan, interwoven with the very unique history of our country, was among the many tales in our city which exemplified the unique relationship between Hong Kong and our motherland. Back in 1888, the university’s forerunner, the Christian College in China, was founded in Guangzhou. Seventy-nine years later, in 1967, the institution was re-established in Hong Kong as Lingnan College. It was granted self-accreditation status and full recognition as a university by the Government in 1998 and renamed Lingnan University in 1999.

 

Over the years, Lingnan has endured thorny circumstances and sailed through countless hard times. Generations of Lingnanians have not only emerged stronger, but also remain dedicated to promoting East-meets-West liberal arts education and community engagement, and pursuing outstanding teaching, learning and scholarship. Their remarkable achievements have gained both local and overseas recognition. In 2015, the university was ranked among the Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in Asia on the Forbes’ list. Last year, it was commended by the Quality Assurance Council of the University Grants Committee for its commitment in achieving excellence through liberal arts education and providing a rich array of opportunities for the whole-person development of students.

 

Education is one of the top policy priorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. It takes the lion’s share of government recurrent expenditure, accounting for 21% (or $78.6 billion) of the total in the current financial year. This investment illustrates our commitment to education in Hong Kong, including higher education on the uppermost rung. I am particularly pleased to note that the university has developed a strategic plan for 2016-2022 to steer Lingnanians to the next level of excellence. Among the various areas identified for strategic development, the university is determined to promote regional and international co-operation to strengthen the research culture and training as well as internationalisation of student learning. This strategy aligns well with the Belt & Road and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area initiatives. Hong Kong has a key role to play in these very important initiatives and we should help our young talent grasp the new opportunities. We are now making relentless efforts to deliver infrastructure projects to improve our connectivity in the region. For example, the 26km Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link will connect us immediately to the immense opportunities along the 22,000km express rail on the Mainland. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will reduce the journey time to the western Pearl River Delta region substantially by putting it into our three-hour commuting radius. The construction of a third runway at the Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok will consolidate our city’s position as an international and regional aviation hub that can reach half of the world’s population in less than five hours’ flying time.

 

Lingnan’s outstanding work in broadening students’ horizons and helping them develop an international perspective is indeed visionary and far-sighted. The university scores high on internationalised outlook with 90% of its undergraduates having the opportunity to go on exchange. To date, the university has more than 190 exchange partners in about 40 countries.

 

Lingnan has also made remarkable progress in research and knowledge transfer. Seven strategic research themes have been identified in the strategic plan, and many of them such as economic and international development, transcultural studies as well as art, performance and the contemporary world could help in establishing closer collaboration and exchanges with institutions in different parts of the world. Forging people-to-people bonds is at the heart of the Belt & Road Initiative. We encourage closer cultural ties across the Asian region and beyond. This is particularly important as the Free Trade Agreement concluded between Hong Kong and ASEAN will be signed in November this year. With ASEAN being our second largest trading partner, the agreement will certainly boost economic and talent exchanges between Hong Kong and the entire region and open up boundless possibilities to talent with international perspective, like our Lingnanians. I feel most encouraged to learn that Lingnan students have actively participated in various internship programmes including the ASEAN Internship Scheme and the Mainland Internship Programme.

 

The Government will continue to invest in education and join hands with the higher education sector and the community at large to provide our younger generation with more and better opportunities. We hope to cultivate in our prospective leaders commitment to society, love for our city and our nation as well as a global outlook that will enable them to contribute to the long-term future of Hong Kong.

 

Lingnan is a shining and outstanding example of the virtues of liberal arts in education. As the only publicly funded liberal arts university in Hong Kong, it has created a unique brand of higher education characterised by a close staff-student relationship, rich residential campus life, global learning opportunities and active community service. I trust that Lingnan will continue to nurture generations of Lingnanians with a fair and critical mind and a caring heart to contribute to the community.

 

We are all very proud of the achievements of Lingnan University and believe that it will continue to scale new heights in the years ahead. On this joyous occasion, may I join you all in wishing Lingnan every success in its future endeavour.

 

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung made these remarks at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the re-establishment of Lingnan University in Hong Kong on September 19.

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Skilled, versatile workforce ensured

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung

Over the past four decades, the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) has upheld its mission to enhance capacity building for human resource management (HRM) professionals to meet the challenges arising from changing forms of corporate governance structure, stakeholder relationships and consequent impact on HRM policy as a result of rapid technological advances, rising customer expectation and dynamic business environment.

 

A high quality workforce has been the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s success. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region attaches great importance to nurturing talent for the continuous success and long-term development of Hong Kong. To this end, we have been investing heavily in education and manpower training. Education takes up the lion’s share of the government recurrent expenditure, accounting for 21% of the total (or $78.6 billion) in the current financial year. Meanwhile, the Education Bureau has provided stronger support to schools to implement career and life planning education to better prepare students to make the best of the opportunities ahead in accordance with their interests, abilities and aptitudes.

 

We also accord high priority to the continuous improvement of our workforce. The Employees Retraining Board, partnering with around 90 training bodies, plays a pivotal role in upgrading the skills of the workforce with education attainment at sub-degree level or below. It provides 130,000 training places in the current fiscal years. Apart from grooming local talents, we have made considerable efforts to attract talents from different parts of the world. The Labour & Welfare Bureau is studying the feasibility of drawing up a talent list to improve the effectiveness and attractiveness of our talent schemes to facilitate Hong Kong’s development into a high value-added and diversified economy.

 

Government’s effort alone is not enough. We need the support of the relevant sectors of the community to nurture talents in Hong Kong. Throughout the years, HKIHRM has been a close partner of the Government in strengthening the human capital of Hong Kong. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the Institute for its staunch support in promoting vocational and professional education and training, and the implementation of the HKQF to help enhance the overall quality and competitiveness of the local workforce. I am also delighted to learn that HKIHRM will host its Annual Conference & Exhibition again this year and that many world renowned experts have agreed to speak and share their views on Work 4.0 – how to capitalise on technologies to enhance productivity. Let me take this early opportunity to wish the Conference every success.

 

To enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness and ensure that we have a skilled and versatile workforce to meet our fast changing social-economic development, the Government will set up a high-level Human Resources Planning Commission, with the Chief Secretary as its Chairman. This underlines our determination and commitment to propel Hong Kong forward.

 

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung made these remarks at the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management 40th Anniversary Reception on September 14.

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Belt & Road connects people, nations

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau

You have heard in the opening session the latest policy direction from the perspective of the Central Government of China on the Belt & Road Initiative. Let me highlight two points which I think are worth repeating. The first one is: the Belt & Road clearly is not just a China’s initiative as also echoed by the two ministers present in this session. It is simply too big for just one single party as evident from the dollar sign that you have heard. But more important, I think, is the Belt & Road could not make a success without the realisation of the collective benefits to be gained by all those participating.

 

The second point about the Belt & Road: it is not just a trade and investment initiative. It is also very clear that you have heard this morning that the message of “Five Connects” came out repeatedly, namely policy co-ordination, which obviously involves government-to-government (G-to-G) or among different jurisdictions; facilities connectivity is all about infrastructural development, and we have heard of projects crossing boundaries or between regions or even trans-continents; unimpeded trade and financial integration is core to all these investments and finances; and last but not least is the people-to-people bond which I see as a sustainable development between not just countries but also people.

 

The Belt & Road Initiative encompasses the vision that through facilities upgrading, capacity building and closer economic ties with mutual trust, we could bring about a better livelihood among all parties involved.

 

So how to build this partnership and also, closer to home, one would ask what has it to do with me? This is a question that is often asked even within tiny Hong Kong which is so close to the Mainland. I believe all the participants today answer that question by your presence.

But I believe a fuller answer to the above question among different sectors may also give us a wider perspective on what it has to do with us here in Hong Kong or as international businessmen.

 

Infrastructural investors 

I’ll pick a few sectors to start with. I will start with the infrastructural investors.

 

For infrastructural project initiators, including building and construction conglomerates, I think they see the Belt & Road as the high sea where they can set sail for a catch of vast investment and project opportunities that are in need of engineering solutions. The obvious examples are construction contracts, including those being mentioned, railways, ports, highways, airports, refineries, power plants, etc. I can tell you on the way I came in, I collected over two dozen name cards, including companies which have invested or tried to invest in these projects. And they all mentioned that they do not do it alone.

 

So, even these big corps would not go out in a single sail as the high sea sometimes is too big or at times too rough for them individually. Their catch would hinge on how much they know about the market, the culture, the local practices, which fall on the expert areas of some professional services which could help guide the sail if they are to avoid hitting an iceberg or run aground on shallow reefs.

 

Today, I understand that TDC (Trade Development Council) has lined up 175 projects that are seeking business partners amongst investors, financiers, risk assessors, insurers, architects and engineers, with whom they wish to set sail together. So these are people who know China, who know Hong Kong and the wider world. And even if they do not know exactly where and what, I think the typical Hong Kong partner would try to find out and find the expertise that you can partner with.

 

For professional services like financiers, bankers and lawyers, I think the Belt & Road offers huge opportunities given rise by these projects, including project financing, syndicated loans, bonds issuing and venture capital. For lawyers, legal services from contract preparation to patents or intellectual property rights protection. Recently, a lot of lawyers told me that the best vehicle is to have the projects put in a project investment vehicle so that they can be protected by Hong Kong law and serviced by Hong Kong professional services. Also that involves dispute settlement, provisions and also future mediation and arbitration services if they are really needed.

 

We also need bankers, accountants, auditors, insurers, just to name a few. No wonder you will find one maybe sitting next to you – a lot of people who turn out at this forum are included in the above professional services today. They are your guiding partners, especially in your business ventures into territories that are far from home and also in jurisdictions that might not be entirely familiar to you at the moment.

 

Supporting SMEs 

One would also ask for the small and young, are you being left out? People in various trades and industries often ask if the Belt & Road caters only for the big shots, and it makes one wonder whether SMEs (small and medium enterprises), particularly nowadays what we call micro-SMEs, could even get close to the major deals.

 

This is a very pertinent question that Hong Kong would have to address. Had the Belt & Road been confined to the Global 100s or Fortune 500s, Hong Kong would not have been the market place. Hong Kong prides itself as being the best market place for both the big and the small, MNCs (multinational corporations) as well as startups. If you go to visit the TDC’s portal, there are examples and actual experience sharing on small professional firms that could secure contracts not only because of their size but rather their skills, such as professional experience, flexibility, ideas, design, ingenuity and first-hand and unique knowledge of the markets of both the East and West. Now, I need not answer the question of why Hong Kong, because that is fully covered in the Chief Executive’s speech.  

 

But perhaps you would say that all the above are good but not good enough, because to bridge the valleys and to avoid potholes that are inevitably found in overseas and cross-boundary ventures one would find comfort with a government-facilitated gateway aided by navigation practices that are transparent, accessible and reliable. 

Here, I would like to highlight four points that Hong Kong is offering.

 

The first is what I call the China-Hong Kong Connect. To give the business community a better grasp of the initiative, we are entering into an agreement with the Central Government which the Chief Executive mentioned. In fact, it was an idea that, when we visited Beijing in late July, we have proposed an agreement with the National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) and hope to have it signed before the end of the year. This agreement would give a very detailed description of areas that Hong Kong is good at, and areas that we believe that Hong Kong can serve the Belt & Road Initiative not just for the country, but also for partners that will be collaborating with the Mainland. 

 

The second point is as we proceed to sign this agreement, we are also establishing, as the NDRC Vice-Chairman mentioned, a bilateral government-to-government mechanism where the Hong Kong Government, with co-ordination by my bureau, i.e. the Commerce & Economic Development Bureau, will be putting together direct and regular meetings with the NDRC, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss matters pertaining to the Belt & Road. We will also at the same time make use of our Economic & Trade Offices established in the Mainland to engage provinces and cities that are involved in the Belt & Road. Such information through this G-to-G dialogue will of course be passed on to the trade and professional community back home.

 

Trade pacts with Belt & Road nations

The third point is the Multilateral Trade Connect. Certainty of trade and protection of investment are important, and this is done through the signing of free trade agreements (FTAs), investment promotion and protection agreements and the comprehensive agreements of the avoidance of double taxation. These are bilateral agreements that Hong Kong has been entering with other countries and economies. I can assure you that in the ongoing negotiations, we will give priority to countries along the Belt & Road. The recent conclusion of the FTA with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is the latest example that you can see. 

 

Last but not least is the Business Connect. The summit today, which I believe will become an annual business forum that augments the high-level Belt & Road Summit to be held in Beijing biannually, will be the business forum for both G-to-B (government-to-business) and B-to-B (business-to-business) connections. 

 

We are also stepping up consultation and collaboration with the local and international community. The Government will use our own advisory committees, both the revamped Trade & Industry Advisory Board and the International Business Committee which include all the local and foreign chambers of commerce, to engage them, together with professional groups, think tanks and young startups to hear their views and keep them abreast of the latest developments.

 

At the business front, the TDC, our partner, will be doing market research, country and regional profiles and analyses, trade intelligence gathering and business matching. One must not forget the trade missions and roadshows that we will continue to launch in countries along the Belt & Road.

 

I am also happy to hear that there will shortly be the setting up of the Belt & Road Chamber of Commerce, a business connect initiative taken by some key business leaders in this direction. Following that, I also notice that some professional bodies, the legal sector included, are also pushing forward alliances with their overseas partners along the Belt & Road countries.

 

Together, we are seeing a very clear vision and also an affirmative action list on the Belt & Road. It is indeed an alliance in the making among countries and people mutually engaged with trust, support and accomplishment. So the Belt & Road is set to connect businesses, governments and people through a shared vision, a vision that will bring betterment to all who participate and stand to gain.

 

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau made these remarks at the Belt & Road Summit on September 11.

via Moroccan Trader Belt & Road connects people, nations

Embracing business opportunities

Financial Secretary Paul Chan

Open, fair, transparent and international are in fact the indispensable building blocks of Hong Kong’s success in the global economy; success forged on free trade, as well as on the free movement of capital, goods, talent and information in and out of Hong Kong. Our open and fair market treats all companies the same regardless of size or origin. Our infrastructure is world-class. Our professional services are top-notch. All these, underpinned by a common law legal system with a fine tradition of rule of law and independent judiciary, have attracted more than 8,000 foreign and Mainland companies to set up their offices in Hong Kong, including 75 of the world’s 100 largest banks.

 

Over the past 23 years, the US-based Heritage Foundation has named Hong Kong the world’s freest economy. And for the past two years, the World Competitiveness Yearbook, published by the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland, has named Hong Kong the world’s most competitive economy.

 

Belt & Road capital hub 

Add our unparalleled connectivity with the rest of the world and first-mover experience with the Mainland of China, and it’s clear that Hong Kong is the natural premier services and capital hub for the Belt & Road and its far-reaching mission. That’s particularly true for infrastructure financing and financial connectivity, both of which lie at the forefront of the Belt & Road Initiative.

 

Hong Kong’s stock market offers some of the best liquidity in the world. We were ranked number one for funds raised through initial public offerings over the past two years. And last year’s total came in at more than US$25 billion. Indeed, we have been among the world’s top five in IPO fundraising since 2002. That level of success, year after year, pays off with trust today – confidence in Hong Kong and its ability to raise capital for Belt & Road infrastructure development, through IPO or post-IPO financing.

 

It helps, too, that the Securities & Futures Commission, our regulator for securities and futures markets set out, in April this year, criteria for assessing the eligibility of infrastructure project companies to list on our Main Board.

 

The commission’s statement provides a clear pathway for infrastructure project companies looking to list in Hong Kong.

 

Apart from IPOs, we also offer a great variety of financing avenues – syndicated loans, private equity funds, bonds, sukuk and much more. The vast corridors of the Belt & Road embrace a significant Muslim population. And that can only boost Islamic finance in the coming years and decades. Here, too, Hong Kong is well prepared, having issued three sukuk over the last three years.

 

The latest, in February this year, made Hong Kong the first AAA-government to launch a sukuk with a 10-year tenor.

 

For more than a decade, we have been at the forefront of the Mainland’s financial liberalisation and renminbi internationalisation. The results speak for themselves. But let me add a word or two about the Chinese currency.

 

Hong Kong is the world’s leading offshore renminbi business hub, blessed with the largest pool of renminbi liquidity outside the Mainland. In fact, about 70% of offshore renminbi payments are handled by banks in Hong Kong.

 

Many corporations looking to expand their businesses to countries along the Belt & Road see a need to manage their risk exposure and to set up a corporate treasury centre to centralise the financing and liquidity of their regional subsidiaries. Our multi-disciplinary professionals and our cross-jurisdiction dispute resolution services stand ready to assist. In addition, last year we passed a law providing tax concessions for qualified corporate treasury centres set up in Hong Kong.

 

HK-ASEAN trade pact

The good news doesn’t end here. Just two days ago, in the Philippines, we announced the conclusion of negotiations for the ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will be formally signed in November. The ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA will surely enhance Hong Kong’s role as a super-connector, risk manager and pre-eminent services provider between the Mainland and ASEAN member states under the Belt & Road.

 

ASEAN, of course, is already Hong Kong’s second-largest merchandise trade partner. And the FTA will surely further strengthen our buoyant economic ties, fast-tracking the flow of goods, services, investment and cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and ASEAN, thereby expanding business opportunities and stimulating growth throughout the region.

 

Bringing Belt & Road players and projects together was central to the creation, last year, of the HKMA (Hong Kong Monetary Authority)’s Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office.

 

And I can tell you that all expectations are being met. To date, the office has brought together more than 70 partners from all over the world. They include banks, multilateral agencies, project developers and operators, financiers, institutional investors and professional services firms.

 

There’s more. In mid-June, Hong Kong formally became a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

 

Let me add that we are liaising with the bank, looking for ways to use Hong Kong’s financial services strengths to support the AIIB.

 

Bountiful bay area 

I have time for one last glittering spotlight on the future. Hong Kong’s future. I’m talking about the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area, situated at the fast-beating heart of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

 

In March this year, Premier Li Keqiang announced the study of a development plan for this Bay Area, which is China’s richest region, covering Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province including Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Guangzhou.

 

With a total population of more than 66 million and an aggregate GDP (gross domestic product) of over US$1.3 trillion, the bay area compares favourably with Australia and the Republic of Korea.

 

With the development plan in place, the bay area will accelerate the flow of people, goods, capital and information across the region, presenting enormous business opportunities for Hong Kong and overseas companies.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, emerging markets today are the global economy’s critical growth engine. And it is essential to promote infrastructure and other investments if we want to maintain sustainable economic development and improve the quality of life of people throughout the region.

 

That will demand both visionary strategies and concerted co-operation between governments, businesses, communities and institutions.

 

Financial Secretary Paul Chan made these remarks at the Belt & Road Summit Luncheon on September 11.

 

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Reaping Belt & Road benefits

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

On this occasion, we are equally encouraged by the presence of so many government and business leaders from around the world. We are gathering here today to examine the opportunities as well as the challenges arising from this far-reaching Belt & Road Initiative. As you know, the Belt & Road Initiative is a multi-faceted and multi-platform endeavour driven by several ministries in the Central People’s Government. We are therefore especially pleased and honoured that Mr Ning of the National Development & Reform Commission, Madam Gao of the Ministry of Commerce and Mr Xie from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are joining this keynote session. We look forward to their sharing on the formulation and execution of the Belt & Road Initiative from different policy perspectives.

“From Vision to Action” is an appropriate theme for this year’s summit. Since President Xi Jinping unveiled his vision for the Belt & Road Initiative in 2013, more and more governments and enterprises around the globe have got involved in the action. The “Vision & Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt & 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road” was issued in 2015 by the National Development & Reform Commission, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This provides us with a blueprint for taking forward the initiative.
 

Enhancing connectivity
The core principles for the Belt & Road are “five areas of connectivity”, namely policy co-ordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. This requires a new mindset for positive globalisation in the 21st century, a mindset for international connectivity that is unrestrained by political, economic and cultural differences.

The initiative will have a significant impact, not only for China and Asia, but also for countries along the Belt & Road routes and beyond. We can see the strategy taking shape in a variety of forms, ranging from infrastructure projects and the setting up of economic co-operation zones to new freight and shipping links and cross-boundary economic corridors.

As an international metropolis and China’s best-connected city, “a key link for the Belt & Road” as described by Mr Zhang in his speech last year, Hong Kong can, and will, make immense contributions to the Belt & Road across all the “five areas of connectivity”. In doing so, the Central People’s Government fully supports Hong Kong to capitalise on our unique advantages under the “one country, two systems” formula.

This high-level support is clear to see. Since the beginning of this term of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government on July 1 this year, my colleagues and I have engaged in earnest discussions with the Central Government on a new co-operation agreement that would give full play to Hong Kong’s unique advantages under “one country, two systems” in support of the Belt & Road Initiative. It will be another landmark agreement between Hong Kong and the Central Government since the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, that is CEPA.

Collaboration strategies under the agreement would cover key areas such as finance and capital raising, infrastructure facilities, trade and investment facilitation, project information sharing, interfacing and dispute resolution, as well as promoting people-to-people bonds. The proposed agreement will serve as a guide and roadmap for mutual co-operation and understanding. We will continue to discuss details of the co-operation framework with a view to signing the agreement at the earliest opportunity.
 

Belt & Road action plan
By leveraging this new platform and working closely with our counterparts in the Mainland and overseas, I am confident that Hong Kong’s enterprises and talents will be able to fully engage in the Belt & Road Initiative and reap many benefits.
 

As this theme of this year’s summit suggests, the Hong Kong SAR Government has also to turn our role in this national strategy into action. Our action plan envisages building on our existing strengths, including a high degree of autonomy in conducting our external affairs as provided for under the Basic Law, and exploring new advantages. In the course of these efforts, the Government will play the additional roles of being a “facilitator” and a “promoter” advocated in my election manifesto. To underline our determination, we will adopt a fiscal policy conducive to seizing those many opportunities, involving wise investment and competitive tax measures. I have asked the Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau to lead and co-ordinate efforts in participating in the Belt & Road Initiative. No doubt Edward will talk more about this topic in session one of the summit this morning.

The second session this morning puts the spotlight on infrastructure development, with a focus on the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region. Not only is ASEAN strategically located on the Belt & Road routes, the region’s emerging economies are seen as future drivers of the regional and global economy.

Since becoming Hong Kong’s Chief Executive in July, I have already visited Singapore and Thailand to meet with government and business leaders in the region. My administration will continue to strengthen ties with the region’s 10 member states.

I am pleased to tell you that we have recently successfully concluded a Hong Kong-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will significantly boost our links with ASEAN. I look forward to the formal signing of this FTA in November this year. The agreement will further enhance flows of trade and investment between Hong Kong and ASEAN, at a key intersection for the Belt & Road.
 

We will explore entering into more FTAs and other bilateral accords such as investment promotion and protection agreements and comprehensive agreements on the avoidance of double taxation, with governments around the world.
 

Belt & Road trade offices
We have also signalled plans to expand our network of Economic & Trade Offices (ETOs) along the Belt & Road. In ASEAN, we opened a new Economic & Trade Office in the Indonesian capital Jakarta earlier this year and we have plans for another ETO in the region in the future.

Undoubtedly, ASEAN will continue to be a focal point for the Belt & Road, with a number of major collaborative projects already under way in the region.

Behind the infrastructure investment in the Belt & Road, a variety of professional services are required to turn plans into vivid reality: investment and risk assessment, research, financing, insurance, accounting, legal services and arbitration. Today, these services sectors represent new economic drivers for Hong Kong and are essential to the Belt & Road vision.

For example, our services professionals support Mainland and overseas enterprises’ outbound investment. We also offer an effective dispute resolution hub for Belt & Road-related projects. Our Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen will share his thoughts on this subject during the thematic breakout forum this afternoon.

Raising capital for Belt & Road infrastructure projects is another challenge. In a recent report, the Asian Development Bank estimates the annual infrastructure investment requirement in Asia between 2016 and 2030 will be around US$1.7 trillion. That is about double the current infrastructure investment level in the region. As China’s international financial centre and a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB, since June this year, our city is set to play a pivotal role in facilitating the Belt & Road projects. The Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office set up in the Hong Kong Monetary Authority last year and its many member institutions stand ready to meet the growing financing needs for projects along the Belt & Road and elsewhere.

We should not ignore the importance of sustainable development. Among others, we aim to foster green finance, establishing a green bond market, formulating green credit guidelines, setting standards and assessments for green financing, and so on. We look forward to working with different governments and organisations to jointly promote sustainable development of the Belt & Road.
 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam made these remarks at the Belt & Road Summit on September 11.

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