CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong a natural champion of open trade and transparency

Hugo Swire says Britain supports the city's plan to expand its role as a connector in the region

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 1:26am

This week has seen Britain host the G8 summit as part of its presidency, which is focused on the "3 Ts": fairer taxes, freer trade and greater transparency.

These are critical issues for global prosperity, jobs and sustainable development. They are mutually reinforcing. We need to work towards common international approaches on these issues, and the G8 can add momentum.

The G8 will contribute to global action to bring international tax rules into the 21st century. The rules have not changed for nearly a century and are failing to ensure that global companies pay a fair share. People expect nothing less.

Trade is of course a crucial driver of growth, yet there are still too many barriers in the global system. As developed economies, the G8 has a responsibility to resist protectionism and support an open, rules-based system.

We are also using our G8 presidency to put a new and practical emphasis on transparency, accountability and open government. We want the G8 to work together with developing countries to prevent money laundering, stamp out bribery and corruption, and increase capacity building for the collection of revenue. These are key building blocks for economic development.

I am certain this agenda will resonate in Hong Kong and provide momentum on areas of shared interest. As Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said at the Boao Forum for Asia, free trade is in Hong Kong's DNA.

In the World Trade Organisation, Britain and Hong Kong are working together to achieve an ambitious agreement on trade facilitation at the December ministerial meeting in Bali. Britain and Hong Kong are looking to push ahead with a trade in services agreement with a group of other like-minded countries. This is vital for our two service-based economies.

Hong Kong is also a key player on taxation and transparency. In part, this is down to the key foundations on which Hong Kong's economy has flourished: the rule of law, property rights (including intellectual property) and freedom of speech.

We welcome the chief executive's plans to expand Hong Kong's role as a connector in the region. We want to be a key partner in this endeavour, encouraging British business to work through Hong Kong into mainland China and helping Chinese business "go global" by investing through Hong Kong into the UK. That does not mean our bilateral trade relationship will take a back seat.

Britain and Hong Kong have a huge shared interest in working closely together, arguing for open markets and open government as central tenants of global prosperity. That is ultimately what the UK's G8 presidency is all about.

Hugo Swire is UK minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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