We had an extremely busy and fruitful trip to Guangzhou and Shenzhen last month on our high-level business mission to Guangdong. Discussions with senior officials during the visit reinforced the huge importance of Hong Kong’s ties with the province as the Greater Bay Area (GBA) takes shape.
As always on visits to these cities, we noticed the ever-changing environment as infrastructure develops, new companies spring up and the workforce becomes more international.
Our mission also gave us on-the-ground insights into some of the challenges to doing business in the GBA – from minor inconveniences to more significant policy hurdles – that could be ironed out for the benefit of both sides.
One of the key priorities for HKGCC is ensuring that Hong Kong regulations are fit for purpose. And as cross-border activity intensifies, we also see scope for relevant regulations to be unified and processes streamlined.
Since the three jurisdictions that make up the GBA have different regulations and systems, achieving an efficient flow of goods and people is easier said than done. But it is not impossible. Unifying certain regulations would benefit the authorities as well as smoothing the path for businesses. For example, customs procedures could be streamlined to avoid duplication of work as well as speed up clearance.
Unifying regulations would also help to encourage more Hong Kong companies, especially SMEs, to move into the Mainland market. In a survey that we conducted on the GBA, many Chamber members reported that one of the chief difficulties they experienced was their unfamiliarity with local compliance requirements. Currently, they tell us that it seems the GBA opportunities are behind a glass door – highly visible, but they do not have the key to access them.
The most obvious signs of initiatives moving at full speed are the greatly improved transport links. But travellers can still be held up at immigration, so to speed up the passage of Hong Kong residents who regularly travel to the region, we have proposed a “GBA card” that would allow international businesspeople to travel more easily to and from the Mainland.
We also need to examine how tax regimes can be aligned to deepen cooperation between Hong Kong and Guangdong. Two districts in the GBA – Hengqin and Qianhai – have already implemented a concessionary corporate income tax rate of 15% for businesses in certain industries. We hope that this policy will be rolled out across other cities in the GBA soon.
We believe such measures could have a significant impact in encouraging more Hong Kong businesses to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that the GBA is creating, for the benefit of both sides.