Chamber CEO George Leung welcomed Consul General Elizabeth Ward and Celia Ngou, Media Manager, from the Australian Consulate General to the Chamber on 24 May.
Both sides exchanged views on the economic outlook of Hong Kong and Australia, and discussed Hong Kong’s role in the Greater Bay Area and how both economies could benefit from this cooperation.
Consul General Ward said she looked forward to working with the Chamber to foster business ties once Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
Most countries in Africa have enjoyed sustained economic growth over the past 15 years, with growth rates often exceeding 5% per year. At the Chamber’s webinar on 5 May, a panel of experts shared their insights into the latest developments in Africa, the potential impacts of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, as well as the challenges and opportunities that their countries are facing.
Skander Negasi, CEO of Trade and Fairs Consulting & Trade and Fairs East Africa, kicked off the event with a presentation on the business environment in Africa. He explained that the continent was home to half of the world's fastest-growing economies in terms of GDP growth. Africa is also poised to keep its position as the world’s youngest continent by 2030, by which time 57% of the population will be under 25 years old, meaning the continent will continue to possess a young workforce and large consumer market ripe for investment. Economic activities will be catalyzed with the AfCFTA, which came into force in 2021 and aims to boost continental trade from 16% to 60%, strengthen industrialization and logistics, and bring African countries into a unified customs bloc.
In the panel discussion that followed, Getachew Regassa, Secretary General of Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Associations, told members that Ethiopia was going through a complete economic reform with the private sector spearheading the country’s economic growth. The country was in the process of establishing its first stock market, Regassa said, and changes to its investment laws had liberalized its telecom sector by allowing foreign investors in. Other areas of interest include the digital economy, financial sector, mining and manufacturing.
Dr Erick Rutto, Vice President of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that Kenya was the largest economy in East Africa and had sustained a GDP growth of 5-6.5% in the past five years. The country has emerged as Africa’s top technology and innovation hub, so much so that it has been dubbed “Silicon Savannah” in recent times. Dr Rutto encouraged members to look into promising sectors such as ICT, healthcare, affordable housing and agritech.
Chime Jude, Executive Director of Trade of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Nigeria accounts for about half of West Africa’s population, with approximately 202 million people. While it is the largest oil exporter in Africa and has the largest natural gas reserves on the continent, in addition to an abundance of untapped mineral wealth, the Government has made efforts to diversify its economy, so there are opportunities in priority sectors such as mining, agriculture, energy and transportation infrastructure, as well as telecommunications.
Special thanks to Trade and Fairs Consulting & Trade and Fairs East Africa (official representative of Messe Frankfurt) for co-organizing the webinar with us.
The "Omnibus Law" has introduced significant reforms to Indonesia's business environment, making this major ASEAN economy an increasingly attractive destination for Hong Kong investors. At the Chamber’s webinar on 27 April, a panel of speakers shared their insights on the potential impact of the Omnibus Law, and the opportunities that are expected to arise.
Slamet Noegroho, Consul for Economic Affairs from the Consulate General of Indonesia, explained that the reforms would simplify more than 70 laws into one. This will simplify bureaucratic processes and as a result is expected to greatly improve the ease of doing business in the country.
Riza Buditomo, Partner in Trade and Customs from HHP Law Firm, said the new law gives the Ministry of Trade the authority to determine which trading companies have a good reputation. The ministry will also be able to provide additional support to such companies in the form of facilities, business information, incentives and marketing. He also explained that the law has added new lines of business that may operate within Special Economic Zones, namely the education and health sectors. This will encourage new market players to bring in quality competition in these industries.
Rinaldo Aditya, Senior Associate, and Yesi Samosir, Associate in the Employment and Compensation Practice Group, from HHP Law Firm, spoke on the employment and labour aspects of the Omnibus Law. They said the new visa regulations will open up single and multiple entry visit visas to Indonesia for “pre-investment” business activities, such as conducting field surveys and feasibility studies, and provide exemptions for work permits for company directors and commissioners who are shareholders.
Denis Yip, Commissioner for Belt and Road, paid a courtesy call on Chamber CEO George Leung and Belt & Road Working Group Co-Convenors Edmond Yue and Nicholas Ho on 18 March to discuss ways to help more businesses in Hong Kong and overseas get on the BRI train. He was accompanied by Deputy Commissioner Kesson Lee and his team from the Belt and Road Office.
Yip said his office had been organizing webinars to promote trade and investment between Hong Kong and Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He added that the Belt and Road Summit 2021, planned to take place in September, will feature a new emphasis on the Greater Bay Area (GBA), RCEP, ASEAN and their connection to the BRI. He explained that the his office’s work had been geared towards promoting Hong Kong as a top-class service provider to BRI countries, and leveraging Hong Kong’s advantages in sectors such as I&T, finance, startups, medical, construction and engineering.
Leung said the Chamber and its BRI Working Group keeps members abreast of the latest developments of the BRI, and, through its connections with overseas chambers, connects members with potential partners in emerging markets in ASEAN and beyond.
Since its establishment six years ago, the Guangdong Pilot Free Trade Zone (GDFTZ) has been developing institutional innovation and financial services through cooperation with Hong Kong and Macao. The GDFTZ includes the Nansha area of Guangzhou, the Qianhai and Shekou districts in Shenzhen, and Hengqin island in Zhuhai
At a webinar on 10 March, Bin Yang and Daniel Hui, Partners at KPMG, examined the positioning and strategic priorities of each region within the FTZ. They also discussed the tax and financial incentives available for Hong Kong companies, as well as the potential opportunities and challenges in the FTZ.
Duncan Chiu, Chief Representative of Hengqin FTZ (Hong Kong) Representative Office, and Yvonne Wong, General Manager of Qianhai International Liaison Services Limited, then joined the panel discussion that followed. They explained in more detail about the role that FTZs play in the development of the GBA, and how Hong Kong businesses can access the opportunities.
Tomohiro Takashima, Director General of JETRO Hong Kong, paid a courtesy visit on the Chamber’s CEO George Leung on 10 March to present the findings of JETRO’s recent survey on Japanese companies’ confidence in Hong Kong’s business environment, and to discuss ways to collaborate and promote Japan-Hong Kong business. He was accompanied by Deputy Director General Yutaka Hashimoto and Officer Yusuke Kobayashi.
Takashima noted Hong Kong has been Japan’s largest export market for food products for many years. The export value of Japan’s farm and food products reached US$1.9 billion in 2020. Interestingly, Hong Kong has also become Japan’s largest importer of sake as local consumption rose by 16% in 2020, surpassing both China and the United States.
The two sides also discussed ways to win back the confidence of Japanese businesses and improve their perception of Hong Kong as a business destination. The Greater Bay Area, with a population of 730 million, presents a huge market and will bring about vast opportunities for foreign businesses looking to invest, with Hong Kong at the centre of all the action as an international business hub and world-class services provider.
Bilal Ahmad Butt, Consul General of Pakistan, spoke at the Chamber’s Asia & Africa Committee meeting on 9 March on Pakistan’s latest economic developments and business opportunities. As the fifth most populous country in the world, with 60% of its population between 16-30 years old, Pakistan possesses a young workforce and rising consumer market, the Consul General explained. It also presents many business opportunities for investors in sectors including textiles, tourism and hospitality, food processing, housing and construction, and IT.
China has already pledged US$60 billion of investment via the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which aims to upgrade Pakistan's infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, energy projects, and special economic zones. While China remains Pakistan’s leading FDI source by a wide margin, accounting for one-third of the country’s inflows in 2020, investment from Hong Kong is not to be underestimated either. Hong Kong ranks fourth, and contributes 7% of the country’s total FDI.
One of these major Hong Kong investors is port operator Hutchison Port, which is leading the way in the development of Pakistan's Karachi port, having committed investment of US$240 million to the project.
Edmond Yue, Co-Convenor of the Belt and Road Working Group, hosted the group’s meeting on 2 March. He invited Liu Yajun, Head of Commercial Office, Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, who spoke on the latest developments of the Belt and Road, and the initiative’s relations with the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Mainland’s Dual Circulation Strategy.
Liu said countries in the RCEP region had traditionally been important markets for the Belt and Road, so the RCEP will further create and enhance synergy between members of the trade bloc and the initiative.
Although Hong Kong is not yet a member of the RCEP, it aims to join at the first opportunity. The Mainland supports Hong Kong's inclusion in the bloc, and believes the city will play a key role in connecting the participating economies through its state-of-the-art services industries and financial infrastructure.
The RCEP will create the world's largest trading bloc, accounting for one third of the world's population and global GDP, making it bigger than the E.U. At the Chamber’s webinar on 23 February, a panel of speakers shared their insights on the agreement’s potential impacts on trade and investment in the region, and the opportunities that are expected to arise.
Kelvin Lau, Senior Economist for Greater China from Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Ltd, said the RCEP would bridge the trade and investment gap between China and Japan and Korea, as China did not have an FTA with the other two previously. Kathleen Wang, Tax Services Senior Manager from PwC Hong Kong and Kevin Tsoi, Partner from PwC China, encouraged members to look at the potential opportunities in trade of goods, as the RCEP will eliminate tariffs on at least 92% of the goods in the region, within which around two thirds will be immediate. Melissa Ho, Economist for Asian and Emerging Markets Research at HKTDC, said RCEP member countries have traditionally been important trading partners for Hong Kong, accounting for 73% of Hong Kong’s total trade. Hong Kong could potentially become the region’s sourcing hub and financing centre, and therefore play an important role in the RCEP.
This webinar is one of many events the Chamber organizes as we look into opportunities beyond Covid-19. Stay tuned for more updates on the RCEP and trade and investment news in the region!
Asia & Africa Committee Chairman Lt Col Nigel Anthony Collett, and Vice Chairmen Jonathan Lamport, Natalia Sukhanova and Andrew Wells, met on 19 January to discuss the upcoming plans for the committee. With the pandemic still very much at the forefront, the committee agreed to focus its efforts on countries closer to home, starting with Asia. Looking ahead, they also discussed plans to share more insights on Africa with members.