Hong Kong manufacturers seek stronger links with delta

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 3:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 3:59am

Hong Kong manufacturers want to strengthen co-operation with the authorities in the Pearl River Delta as part of the push for a free-trade zone involving Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau.

"Hong Kong will play its role as the super bridge for foreign enterprises that seek to enter China and mainland enterprises that seek to expand overseas," Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in Zhongshan yesterday at a ceremony to mark the 12th anniversary of the Hong Kong and Pearl River Delta Co-operation Forum.

Federation of Hong Kong Industries chairman Stanley Lau Chin-ho said the three regions would need to agree to be supplementary to each other in the proposed free-trade zone, building on what had been achieved within the Pearl River Delta.

Two memorandums of understanding were signed yesterday to foster channels for Hong Kong manufacturers to provide feedback to Guangdong officials, seek their advice and request support.

One of the MOUs, signed by the federation and the Guangdong Customs Bureau, renewed a three-year-old agreement on keeping a channel open for discussions.

Federation deputy chairman Willy Lin Sun-mo said it had proved "very helpful" during a strike by Hong Kong dock workers in April and May, with Hong Kong manufacturers given quicker tax rebates for exports from Shenzhen.

But Zheng Tianxiang, an analyst of delta economies, said a more pressing matter for the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments to address was the need to improve the latest round of agreements under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, which pledged to make it easier for Hong Kong service sector businesses to enter the mainland.

"The door may be opened, but there are so many devils in the details that still bar the entry of many local financial firms and insurers," Zheng said. "I think before they start talking about a Greater China free-trade zone, they should resolve these practical issues first."

Co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong has frequently been criticised as a half-hearted political gesture because the two places were as much competitors as partners.

Airport Authority Hong Kong, for example, invested in Hangzhou International Airport in Zhejiang province rather than one in the Pearl River Delta when it looked for opportunities on the mainland years ago, while Guangdong teamed up with Singapore rather than Hong Kong when developing a high-technology hub called "Knowledge City".

Trade between Hong Kong and Guangdong in the first 10 months of this year amounted to US$557 billion, up 18 per cent year on year.