Updated at 5.19pm:
China's State Council might further expand its yuan business in Hong Kong, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman Jia Qinglin said on Thursday.
Mr Jia was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 'Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau Trade and Economic Co-operation Forum' on Thursday.
The forum was jointly organised by the Ministry of Commerce and the SAR government. It was co-organised to mark the third anniversary of the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa).
Mr Jia said expanding yuan business in Hong Kong would offer many benefits.
It would allow Hong Kong importers to settle direct import trade from the mainland in yuan. It would mean institutions in the mainland could issue yuan bonds in Hong Kong on a pilot basis.
'The new Cepa measures and the new policies being studied by the State Council on expanding yuan business would bring about faster and better economic development of the three regions,' Mr Jia said.
Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen agreed. 'The further expansion of renminbi services will enhance Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre. The benefits are clear for all to see,' he told reporters.
Mr Tang said the government would maintain close contact with the People's Bank of China over the issue.
Jia Qinglin on Thursday also outlined new Cepa liberalisation measures.
The new measures were signed during a meeting on Tuesday between Mr Tang and Vice-Minister of Commerce Liao Xiaoqi.
Mr Jia said that from January 1, 2007, China would relax market access in the following areas: legal, construction, information technology, convention and exhibition, audiovisual, distribution, tourism, air transport, road transport and individually owned stores.
He said liberalising legal services would include:
- Waiving the requirement on the number of lawyers employed by mainland firms operating in association with Hong Kong firms .
- Waiving the residency requirement on the mainland for representatives stationed in the offices of Hong Kong law firms in China.
- Allowing Hong Kong residents who have acquired mainland qualifications to engage in activities as agents in matrimonial and succession cases.
- Allowing Hong Kong barristers to act as agents in civil litigation cases, and;
- Allowing Hong Kong residents who have acquired mainland legal qualifications to undergo internships in mainland firms set up in Hong Kong.
He said changes were also planned to tourism services. Hong Kong travel agents in Guangdong will be allowed to operate group tours to Hong Kong and Macau for Guangdong residents on a pilot basis.
This would also allow Hong Kong air transport sales agencies to set up in China. The registered capital requirement will be the same as for the mainland enterprises.