The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) is an economic agreement between the government of Hong Kong and the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China. Signed on June 29, 2003, it is a free trade agreement that allows qualifying products, companies and residents of Hong Kong preferential access to the mainland Chinese market.
Cepa doesn't add up to much for accountants
Hong Kong's accountants no longer have to spend quite so long with their heads in books to qualify to work on the mainland. But Cepa has yet to help them get senior roles.
None of the 35,000 members of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants has yet become a partner of a mainland firm, a prerequisite for opening their own practice.
"Cepa did help Hong Kong accountants in terms of qualifications, but there are other regulations that block them from being partners," said Philip Tsai Wing-chung, of international accounting firm Deloitte in Hong Kong. "But Cepa has made a good start. We hope to see more reform in future."
Hong Kong accountants are exempt from four of the six exams needed to become a member of the China Institute of Certified Public Accountants, but just 152 have passed the tests, which are conducted in Chinese.
Institute vice-president Mabel Chan Mei-bo has her own firm in Hong Kong and would like to open one on the mainland. But even if she can pass the exams, she faces more hurdles.
Under the latest Cepa deal, Hong Kong accountants with the CICPA qualification can become partners in firms in Qianhai, the new economic development zone in Shenzhen, as part of a pilot scheme.
But Chan said that because they had to have worked in a mainland firm for three years, it was almost impossible.