UK Country Report

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Keeping pace with change and demand

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 2:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2015, 3:48pm

Trade and economic ties between Britain and Hong Kong continue to go from strength to strength, thanks to shared belief in open markets, the rule of law, and the spirit of innovation.

In terms of business relations, the focus is on keeping pace with change and demand. Two-way exchanges are burgeoning in many sectors, with new and long-established British businesses taking advantage of Hong Kong's position as a gateway to the mainland, and every encouragement being offered for Hong Kong-based enterprises to buy, sell and invest in Britain.

Caroline Wilson, British consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, highlighted some of the more recent developments at a recent official event marking the 88th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.

Among these were closer financial and economic links in areas such as asset management, the internationalisation of the renminbi, and in dealing with the general tax and transparency agenda. Also of note was that Hong Kong is now Britain's second largest market for export goods in the Asia-Pacific, with the total value exceeding GBP5.25 billion (HK$68.3 billion) last year, up 4 per cent from the previous 12 months.

And British engineering companies and suppliers continue to play a major part in current infrastructure projects including the West Kowloon Cultural District, the progressive expansion of the MTR network, and the construction of the impressive Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau cross-delta bridge.

"Other flourishing sectors are education, health, retail, and food and drink," Wilson says. "The automotive sector also continues to be a key manufacturing sector for the UK with [brands like Range Rover]. This year is on track for decade-high output, and a study has just declared that the UK is the cheapest place to manufacture in western Europe."

Running in parallel with the commercial initiatives is the "GREAT" campaign, which places emphasis on diverse aspects of British culture. It makes good use of things like sporting contacts and aspects of national heritage to stir interest, cement ties and, where possible, support the efforts of British companies working in an appropriate sector.

The "GREAT" campaign will continue in Hong Kong with a special festival towards the end of the year. "The UK is a world leader in creativity, and this will showcase the very best of it - from fashion and luxury to cutting-edge technology and innovation in business," Wilson says.

During a visit to Hong Kong in February, George Osborne, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, used the occasion of a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce to emphasise strong and enduring ties, while also noting the importance of Chinese investment in the UK.

"Hong Kong and the UK are now doing more business together than ever before. What I want Britain to do is to build on this special relationship with Hong Kong, so that together we can be a bridge to trade between mainland China and the world," Osborne said.

He also mentioned how co-operation with Hong Kong had strengthened London's position as the Western centre of RMB trading, and that more British retailers would start to accept payments in RMB.