HK firms are promised easier investment rules

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2007, 12:00am

The Ministry of Commerce is poised to simplify procedures for Hong Kong companies to invest on the mainland under a free-trade deal between the two sides.

Speaking at a business forum on the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa) yesterday, Vice-Minister of Commerce Liao Xiaoqi said it would decentralise the power of approval to lower levels when dealing with investment applications from Hong Kong.

Joseph Lai Yi-tak, Hong Kong's director general of trade and industry, said that in some industries, such as cargo and distribution, the power of approval had been delegated from the ministry to authorities at the provincial level.

Mr Liao expected the new measure would speed up processing for Hong Kong investors wanting to start businesses on the mainland.

'In addition, the joint guidance committee of Cepa will hold regular meetings to examine and solve the problems emerging in the implementation of Cepa and increase the transparency of relevant regulations,' he said.

Despite promises by the central government to speed up the investment process, some Hong Kong enterprises say they are still bogged down in the application process due to what they claim is a lack of clear guidance on implementing the agreement.

Daniel Chan Kin-pang, deputy general manager of Hong Thai Travel Services, said it had been nine months since the local travel agent submitted applications to run Hong Kong and Macau tours in Guangdong.

'We just heard that the National Tourism Administration approved our application earlier this week, but it seems that we have to wait for a longer period of time to get the final go-ahead from the Guangdong authorities,' Mr Chan said.

'I think it is really urgent for the governments on both sides to have better communications on these details and give investors clearer and more precise guidance.'

Official statistics says Cepa created 36,000 jobs and brought in investment of HK$5.1 billion for Hong Kong from 2004 to 2006.

It also produced investment of more than HK$9 billion and 16,000 jobs for the mainland.

More than 95 per cent of Hong Kong goods exported to the mainland enjoy tariff-free status.

Trading places

Guangdong officials have been urged to attract more small and medium-sized enterprises from Hong Kong under the Cepa scheme

The amount, in millions of US dollars, invested by Hong Kong in Guangdong under Cepa between 2003 and March this year: 163