Hong Kong trade promoter to form consortiums with firms looking for ‘belt and road’ ride
We can open doors and talk to government leaders, says chairman Vincent Lo
The Trade Development Council (TDC) is expanding beyond its promotional role to form consortiums with firms in Hong Kong and overseas hoping to cash in on mainland China’s ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative”.
Chairman Vincent Lo Hong-shui said he was planning to “re-prioritise” resources and expand the structure of the council – which in its 50-year history has primarily organised exhibitions, conferences and trade missions – to “facilitate” companies wishing to invest in nations involved in the scheme.
“We are planning to have a deputy executive director specifically for belt and road, and will also have a dedicated division,” Lo said in an interview with the Post on Friday.
“Individual companies may find it difficult to deal with a new country, especially the government – that is where the TDC can help. We can open doors and talk to government leaders.”
Lo led a delegation of Hong Kong and Shanghai businessmen to Thailand and Vietnam in May, where they were met by Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha and Vietnamese Prime Minster Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
“Some of the large multinational companies already have projects and plans in belt and road countries, but for small and medium enterprises, the market is too large,” Lo said. “After the consortium is formed and there is a lead company, we will withdraw our role.”
He said one project example was a highway running from north to south Vietnam, which would cost an estimated HK$80 billion.
Championed by President Xi Jinping, the belt and road initiative aims to open up trade in over 60 countries through the old land-based Silk Road economic belt in the north and the maritime Silk Road in the south.
Lo is a long-time supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. After Leung’s term of office ends on June 30 the pair will continue to play an active role to support the trade scheme.
“In his position as a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Leung will have access to senior leaders in China and will be in a good position to help.”
Lo also said his high-level connections in Beijing, including think tanks, had given him valuable advice which was instrumental in the council arriving at key decisions, such as initially recommending eight countries for investment – Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Ben Chan Han-pan, chairman of the Legislative Council’s transport panel, believed that the council’s belt and road efforts would help to address a common headache facing potential investors.
“Many Hong Kong firms have interest in belt and road projects, but they don’t have the knowledge. They are not familiar with local laws, regulations, cross-border capital flows, so they’ll need help from the TDC,” Chan said.
Additional reporting by Amanda Lee