‘Hong Kong and China businesses should partner to invest in non-traditional belt and road markets’

Delegates returning to city from high-profile summit appeal for support, citing advantages and prospects

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 9:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 1:12pm

Hong Kong businesses should team up with their mainland counterparts to invest in “non-traditional” markets under China’s go-global trade scheme, Yvonne Choi Ying-pik, Hong Kong’s commissioner for the “Belt and Road Initiative”, said on Monday.

Choi was speaking to the Post in an exclusive interview after the close of the two-day belt and road summit in Beijing.

“It is difficult to quantify the achievements of the city, but it has been a successful experience for Hong Kong,” Choi said. “We have a visible presence in the conference because of the size of the delegation, and because the chief executive’s presence has been recognised.”

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Sunday made high-profile speeches alongside International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde and Zhou Xiaochuan, the head of China’s central bank.

“We reached out extensively,” Leung said. “It was a long day, but Hong Kong has a very good story to tell. The Hong Kong story is easy to sell.”

He said on Monday that he was “encouraged” by the recognition shown by Western countries of the grand scheme by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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Xi had made clear that the trade initiative would focus on infrastructure development for poorer countries in Asia and Africa. He also assured delegates that China was not interested in setting values for others to follow.

Choi said the 30-member delegation led by Leung – comprising Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, Monetary Authority chief Norman Chan Tak-lam, MTR Corporation chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang and other business leaders – offered good insight for countries hoping to have high-quality service providers in infrastructure.

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“If you want to clinch deals, you need to know what’s happening. So they exchange information, connect, and then they can zero in on the opportunities in various countries,” Choi said.

“We encourage Hong Kong enterprises, big and small, as well as professionals to venture out into non-traditional markets such as Central Asia and West Asia.”

Choi advised smaller and medium-sized companies to partner with mainland enterprises to mitigate risks.

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One of the 30 delegates, HSBC chief executive Peter Wong Tung-shun, said Hong Kong had a leading role to play in delivering financing expertise required by belt and road projects.

“Chinese enterprises can also access Hong Kong’s capital markets, bank liquidity, private equity funds, treasury services and professional talents,” he said.

We encourage Hong Kong enterprises ... to venture out into non-traditional markets such as Central Asia and West Asia
Yvonne Choi Ying-pik, Belt and Road commissioner for Hong Kong

Irons Sze Wing-wai, former chairman of Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong, agreed that Hong Kong firms should partner with those on the mainland to expand into markets like Africa.

“Chinese firms – be it state-owned or privately-run – have had years of experience operating in Africa: countries like Zambia and Ethiopia. They can offer good advice to Hong Kong firms,” he said.

While Leung’s delegation helped promote Hong Kong to the outside world, the city’s press corps at the summit bombarded the chief executive instead with questions regarding his alleged interference in a probe into his 2012 financial dealings with an Australian firm.

Leung, who had been criticised by pan-democrats for his heavy focus on the belt and road plan, told mainland media: “In my 2016 policy address speech I devoted a chapter to Hong Kong’s views and plans for the belt and road strategy. At that time there was scepticism. But society understands it much better now.”

The chief executive added that he would “sit down and review” all the announcements and memorandums of understanding signed on Sunday at the forum, and come up with an action plan.

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“I appeal to the entire Hong Kong community to be more proactive in understanding what is available out there for themselves, for their companies,” he said.

“It’s a new era of cooperation.”

Leung has less than two months to go before he is succeeded by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.