A full house at the Chamber’s Greater Bay Area (GBA) Forum on 10 April enjoyed in-depth insights into the opportunities for Hong Kong businesses.
In his keynote speech, Patrick Nip, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, said that the Outline Development Plan for the GBA was an “unprecedented development,” noting it is driven by the Central Government at the highest level. The Secretary emphasised the importance of “one country, two systems” in the plan, and how it will help leverage our unique advantages such as IP protection and the rule of law.
“The plan will bring many opportunities to Hong Kong, and it will help us to diversify our industrial development.”
Nip also pointed out that there are already new strategies in place, such as funding for technology companies across the whole GBA and modifications to tax rules, that will make it easier for Hong Kong people to work in the Mainland.
He added that the business community has an important role to play as the plan is rolled out.
“We need to implement the Outline Development Plan, but we cannot do it without your support. We hope you will be able to capture the opportunities and give us concrete suggestions that will help businesses in Hong Kong.”
George Leung, Asia-Pacific Adviser at HSBC, pointed out that we all know the main facts about the GBA cities and their comparative strengths. But he also noted that this is a time of change. As the Mainland economy has developed, Hong Kong can no longer play the same role it played in the past.
“China now is not just a supplier market, it is a buyer market,” Leung said. “We have infrastructure that is more advanced than that of the United States – look at our express rail network.”
The Mainland now does not need to raise funds, but it will need support in helping citizens manage their wealth. In the not-too-distant future, the world’s biggest consumption market is likely to be China.
“Hong Kong needs to change, so we can benefit from the changes in the Mainland.”
Leung also addressed the issue of people flow. He said that he has noticed more international-level schools and restaurants opening up, which should attract more Hong Kong residents to move to the Mainland. Freer flow of people in both directions would also help to ease Hong Kong’s problems of an ageing population and shortage of talent.
He described the GBA as a reservoir, compared with the “washing basin” of Hong Kong – adding that Hong Kong needs to actively play its part if it is to benefit.
“We cannot adopt the outlook of the past 30 or 40 years,” he said. “If we do not take this step into the GBA, it will be impossible for us to take advantage of the next 30 to 40 years of China’s development.”
During the first panel session, a number of businesspeople who are also members of the Guangdong CPPCC exchanged their experiences. They discussed the fact that the three governments in the GBA have been already working together for more than a decade, and that continued cooperation will be essential for the success of the region. They noted that the positioning of all of the cities is very clearly defined, and that innovation will be crucial as the GBA develops.
The panelists also discussed the benefits for Hong Kong citizens who chose to live and work in Guangdong. Housing is more affordable, and the availability of space also provides more opportunities for entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams.
In the second panel session, entrepreneurs with experience operating in Guangdong discussed the rapid developments on the Mainland, such as the relative ease of crossing the border compared with just a couple of years ago.
The speakers emphasized the importance of being familiar with local laws and customs when operating in the Mainland, but also shared the benefits of operating in a city like Zhuhai, for example, where is relatively easy to access local government officials.
Delivering the closing keynote speech Liao Jingshan, Director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of Guangdong Provincial People’s Government, said: “Synergy and coordinated development are very important in the Greater Bay Area mechanism.”
He added that the respective governments have been cooperating for many years so there is already a strong foundation. Many policies have been formulated already, he said, such as taxation changes that, in practice, mean “Hong Kong tax for Hong Kong people.”
Liao explained that further specifics on policy would be forthcoming soon, in areas such as healthcare. “We know high-end healthcare is Hong Kong’s advantage, and healthcare is a focus of Chief Executive Carrie Lam,” he said.
Liao also said that HKGCC is an important platform to collect ideas and from the various sectors in the business community in Hong Kong on how the GBA can be implemented.
“I think the Greater Bay Area can learn from the very strong business environment in Hong Kong,” he said.