The Ministry of Commerce and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) signed a memorandum of cooperation on promoting high-quality development of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones on September 1 at the sixth Belt and Road Summit.
Denis Yip Shing-fai, commissioner for Belt and Road of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of the HKSAR Government, said the memorandum provides a solid policy foundation for promoting exchanges and cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong in cooperation zones and helps Hong Kong businesses explore the Belt and Road market.
Exchanges and cooperation
The signing of the memorandum will allow Hong Kong to use the overseas economic and trade cooperation zones as a platform to participate deeply in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and conduct exchanges and cooperation with other countries and regions.
With the spread of the novel coronavirus variant, the COVID-19 pandemic has been heating up again in many economies recently, adding uncertainty to the global economic outlook.
According to the latest statistics released by the Census and Statistics Department of the HKSAR Government, the value of total goods export of the three-month period ending July 2021 decreased by 2.0 percent from the preceding three months on a seasonally adjusted basis.
The industry is concerned about the possible negative impact of logistics problems in the coming months, and experts also think the situation is not optimistic.
In June, the Belt and Road Office of the HKSAR Government co-organized two webinars with the Commercial Office of the Economic Affairs Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in HKSAR, introducing to the Hong Kong business community five cooperation zones located in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, respectively, Yip said.
The memorandum will help the mainland and Hong Kong draw on each other's strengths, further advance cooperation among the mainland, Hong Kong and countries along the Belt and Road, and achieve common development for all.
In recent years, the mainland and Hong Kong have carried out fruitful cooperation in the construction of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones, and jointly building cooperation zones has become a consensus.
Danny Lau, Honorary Chairman of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association, said his company had deployed new production lines in Cambodia and Thailand in 2019, but they were shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Setting up your own factories in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries is a bit like going it alone, and it is difficult for the local government to offer many preferential policies for an individual factory," Lau said. "Hopefully, after the signing of the memorandum, it will be easier for Hong Kong enterprises."
The signing of the memorandum can provide policy guidance and service guarantee for relevant enterprises to better participate in the construction of cooperation zones and reduce investment blindness and risks, Guo Wanda, Executive Vice President of the China Development Institute, said.
The memorandum will further advance the economic and trade cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong, and encourage Hong Kong to be an "important channel" in building a new development paradigm and better integrate into the country's overall development.
In order for Hong Kong to "connect with the world," it should follow the direction of national development and strengthen cooperation with ASEAN countries, Holden Chow Ho-ding, Legislative Council member and Vice Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said.
Liang Haiming, a Hong Kong economist and Chairman of China Silk Road iValley Research Institute, said Hong Kong, with a comprehensive range of professional legal and business services, can effectively support the development of all industries in countries along the Belt and Road and the construction of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones.
With its advantages in language, culture, legal system and economic and trade system, Hong Kong can fully play its role as a bridge between the mainland and the world, according to Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a member of the HKSAR's Legislative Council.
Today for tomorrow
Over the past eight years, 140 countries have signed cooperation agreements with China under the BRI. All parties have actively promoted policy coordination, connectivity of infrastructure and facilities, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds, launched many practical cooperation projects that benefit the people, established a comprehensive and compound connectivity partnership, and created a new prospect for common development.
"Looking ahead, the HKSAR Government and the business community should take advantage of the opportunities of the overseas economic and trade cooperation zones to actively explore new markets in the Belt and Road countries," Liang said.
He believed this will not only increase economic and trade cooperation, promote personnel exchanges and educational cooperation, attract more companies from countries along the Belt and Road to list in Hong Kong, but also attract more international enterprises to invest in Hong Kong and set up regional headquarters here.
Experts and scholars said the HKSAR Government and the business community should be more proactive in providing professional and high-end services such as financing, accounting, guarantee and arbitration to countries along the Belt and Road through publicity and opening economic and trade offices, so as to consolidate and develop Hong Kong's status as an international metropolis and strive to do well today to win tomorrow.