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  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:10am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Rule of law is Hong Kong's trump card as Shanghai develops free-trade zone

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 1:50am

The rule of law is fundamental to Hong Kong's success. The latest steps taken to help Shanghai fulfil its ambition of becoming a global financial centre serve to reinforce the importance to our city's future of the rule of law. The State Council this month endorsed Shanghai's plan to open the mainland's first free-trade zone as a testing ground for reforms that would free up cross-border commodity and capital flows - until now one of Hong Kong's main contributions to the national economy. The government is expected soon to unveil policies covering areas from financial services to transport. Until now, Shanghai's ambition has led to more talk than action. However, the new leadership under President Xi Jinping is seen as being more reformist and supportive of Shanghai's growth as a global hub. After a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang , the council said the Shanghai zone would be a snapshot of an "upgraded Chinese economy" - in other words a pioneer of reforms needed to sustain healthy economic growth.

Initially, officials said later, Shanghai would expand its existing bonded areas until they formed a large free-trade territory set for financial liberalisation. Li is also reported to have approved a plan to allow foreign banks to set up subsidiaries in the free trade zone, and to have signed off on a plan to allow foreign commodities exchanges to set up their own futures delivery warehouses there, which would save costs for domestic commodities buyers. This is good news for HKEx and its new subsidiary London Metal Exchange. Otherwise, the Shanghai zone poses a real, if not imminent threat to Hong Kong's position as a leading financial centre.

However, while there may be positives in the plan for a range of businesses, there is still something missing that is to Hong Kong's advantage - the rule of law and the certainty of contract enforcement. The mainland has no legal system comparable with ours. Hong Kong cannot, of course, sit back and rely on this advantage to retain its competitiveness. Its renowned capacity for innovation and adaptation, a can-do ethic and hard work will also be called upon. Shanghai officials are said to be taking a long view and have started drawing up a blueprint for the city's development between next year and 2049. This is a chance for Hong Kong to consider what other competitive strengths and advantages are worth consolidating in the next decade or two to help defend the city's position.


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Laughable - what financial houses love is a lack of rule of law; the more grey the more shady deals they can create; Shanghai and Shenzen will eventually leave HK in their wake; then HK can return to being a decent place to live free of the inflated egos of bankers!
HK is also facing a direct competition from Shenzhen. Although fewer people are talking about it.
Every time I go to HK these days, there are more and more mainlanders. Corporations, not just tourists. As HK becomes more and more populated with these new residents, do you really think you can maintain your previous concept of rule of law ? It seems naive and overconfident. Capital flows will flow to Shanghai and Singapore as yuan regulations modernize. What is HK's strategic plan for the future ? What is a sustainable differential advantage apart from what you used to be. What is a new strategic advantage you can carve out for yourself now, not something given to you from the British? Best wishes to everyone.
Wealso have the most important thing of al - the freeflow of information of ALL kinds. ALL information is relevant to markets. Without information exchange, any proposed Financial Center in China is doomed to failure.
To want to have economic success without the rule of law is like wanting to make money but with nowhere to put the money in a safe place. To want to have the rule of law without genuine democracy is like wanting to have a set of good football rules but the goal posts can be shifted any time.
stephen c k chan
Rule of law in HK? Let's see how Henry's wife is treated before we make the claim.
John Adams
We have the rule of law AND THE ICAC !
I support China and Shanghai, and I also support China and Shanghai's development, whether or not it competes with HK.
Survival of the fittest !
But until and unless China adopts the rule of law and completely outlaws corruption by setting up an organisation as strict as as the ICAC, China and Shanghai will always lag behind HK.
only if SHG could attract enough suckers! market potential amounts to nothing without rule of law..
it is too sad that rule of law is the only thing HK be proud of these days.
Funny I have never heard New Yorkers trumpeting New York City has rule of law. It is a city of 8 million residents plus few hundred thousands of commuters from suburs and tourists from other part of US and all over the world. Fortune 500 companies most likely set office in that city. Yet, the city runs orderly. It also seems majority of New Yorkers live within law except for those bankers, investment bankers and Wall Street folks. Don't know what mafias do nowadays? Practice speaks louder when comes to real rule of law for a place.




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