Since Chief Executive John Lee took office in July last year, he has wasted no time in undertaking strategic international missions, from the Middle East to the recent successful tour of ASEAN member nations Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Seen against a weakened global economy, the strong partnerships that result from such outreach initiatives are more crucial than ever in driving economic recovery. They bring multilateral collaborations, more cross-border trade and stronger political relationships. They also open doors for local businesses and companies looking farther afield to expand or diversify investments.
I believe Hong Kong’s role as a super-connector cannot be stressed enough. The city’s location, as a gateway between the Mainland and the rest of the world, doubles as a pivot point for the Greater Bay Area (GBA). This enviable positioning also makes Hong Kong a natural focal point for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The BRI has long offered new markets that are seeking investment or in need of skills and expertise. Tapping into the Belt and Road markets gives businesses deeper access to the Mainland, South-east Asia, and the Middle East. For developing and emerging economies in these regions, the resulting bilateral investment and trade deals accelerate development across pillar industries and other important sectors, thus benefiting all.
This month, the Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the BRI. Since its launch in 2016, the Summit has served as a premier global platform for promoting business collaboration. It brings together high-level government officials and international business leaders, setting the stage for multilateral cooperation. This time, the two-day conference will have its first ever dedicated Middle East forum, opening opportunities for companies and investors to discuss business with their counterparts in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
2023 also marks the 20th anniversary of CEPA (Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement). The Chamber commemorated the historic pact last month with a roundtable luncheon where discussions centred on strategies for Hong Kong’s development, economic cooperation with ASEAN, as well as the development of the GBA and BRI.
With Hong Kong poised to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Pact (RCEP), the largest free trade agreement covering 30% of the world’s population and GDP, conditions are ripe for stronger economic recovery and smooth investment flows.
As the Chief Executive has so often pointed out, Hong Kong can bring enormous value to RCEP, and has much to offer in terms of competitive advantages, from preferential access to the Mainland market to internationally compatible trade, commercial and legal systems. Like CEPA, RCEP membership will help local firms to reduce costs while further widening overseas markets.
With governments worldwide working to boost international links for growth, Hong Kong must continue to reach out and seize every opportunity for investment and development. As a world-class financial hub in this rapidly evolving global economy, our best days surely are ahead of us.