AFTER a bumpy ride over the past three years, Governor Chris Patten's fourth policy address to be delivered tomorrow will call for a cease-fire on all fronts. The key word will be co-operation, as Mr Patten attempts to reach out and embrace all comers in the next 20 months. Three main themes in his annual blueprint have been outlined: economic competitiveness, livelihoods and co-operation with the new sovereign. On the political front, the agreements reached between the Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen and his British counterpart Malcolm Rifkind will have to be translated into action at various levels. Details of the liaison office, which acts as a bridge between the Government and China's Preparatory Committee, will be spelled out, and more thoughts concerning how it can serve the future sovereign will be offered. In last October's policy address, entitled Hong Kong: A Thousand Days and Beyond, Mr Patten outlined areas in which he wanted to co-operate with the Preparatory Committee, the chief executive-designate and the team designate. He also pointed to the need to work jointly on the handover arrangements for defence and the ceremonies to mark the actual transfer of sovereignty. The tactics of the Governor are clear: with the completion of the three sets of elections, the two sides should put aside their differences over democracy and focus on practical issues of co-operation. Despite the success of Britain in thawing relations with Mr Qian's visit, Mr Patten has to pay a price for it. A new structure was laid down for senior government officials to meet with their future boss, who will be represented by senior Chinese cadres in Xinhua (New China News Agency), the Joint Liaison Group and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Although the meetings will be held in Hong Kong, the go-ahead for such contacts will inevitably cast a shadow over the absolute authority of the Governor. Full co-operation with China to work out the nitty-gritty of the senior-level contacts will help minimise sensitivity and avoid misunderstandings. With less than three months to go before the launching of the Preparatory Committee, Mr Patten needs to speed up finalising details of the liaison office on one hand and, on the other, wait to hear more from Beijing about the powerful committee. Under the Basic Law, the major task of the Preparatory Committee is to form a 400-member selection committee, which will elect the chief executive through consultation. Although the Governor has rejected any official contacts with the Preliminary Working Committee, he has no choice but to work with the Preparatory Committee. As a source close to the Government says: 'It [the London agreement] is not the best deal. But it marks the first step of formalised talks with China on the handover arrangements. 'Time is running short. The Government wants to start formal co-operation only in 1996 when the Preparatory Committee is established. 'It's a matter of fact that China also wants to have co-operation and do something on the civil service.' With details and the composition of the Preparatory Committee unclear, the administration is hoping the liaison office will play an important role in ensuring a smooth transfer of sovereignty. A liaison link will, at least, provide a channel for the Government to correct any misunderstanding of members of the Preparatory Committee over government policies before it is too late. In his policy address, Mr Patten is unlikely to let the opportunity of offering new initiatives on the working details slip. The former Tory chairman is equally aware of the importance of building a co-operative relationship with the new Legislative Council in the next 600 days or so. The Governor made conciliatory gestures for joint action with the new Legco to tackle the problems facing the territory even before the September 17 election. Moreover, Mr Patten has been careful not to create false hope among legislators that the administration is now in the mood for sharing its power. Quite the contrary, there have been constant reminders that the administration will fight to the end for the executive-led framework. Although the all-important issue of the executive-legislative relationship has figured prominently in the Governor's pre-policy address consultation drive, the lack of sensible and in-depth debate on any particular solution showed that none were expecting a major revamp. EVERYBODY knows that it is no more than a political show. Furthermore, any drastic ideas to adjust the executive-legislative relationship are set to trigger accusations from China that 'Chris Patten is creating new trouble'. The political environment also does not allow room for 'trial and error-type' reforms on the wider area of executive-legislative links. Mr Patten will find it difficult to introduce the Government-Legco Committee proposal in the face of a lack of strong support from the new legislators. At the end of the day, as some Legco members who talked to the Governor in the past fortnight observed, Mr Patten and his top policy secretaries will have to do their utmost to lobby for support for government legislation and policy. A more co-operative, if not less hostile, Legco will help Mr Patten ensure his agenda for Hong Kong in the 600 days or so be completed to its maximal level. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has already launched a study of the future growth of Hong Kong's service industry and the Governor has recognised the need to take active steps to maintain the competitiveness of the enclave - or at least be seen to be doing so. That could help mend his ties with the business community, which has shown disapproval of Mr Patten's approach in dealing with China, and lay the groundwork for more long-term economic plans to be launched by his successor. The declining popularity of the Governor has been a clear indicator that the discontent has spread to a wider spectrum of the community. Public dissatisfaction over livelihood matters such as jobs, housing and government charges will have to be addressed. He is under pressure to scrap the general scheme of labour importation, improve social security payments and freeze government fees and charges. According to a survey conducted by the Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times yesterday, the Governor received a marginal pass from respondents on his overall performance in the past three years. He might feel proud of taking a step towards democracy before sovereignty reverts to China, but the grim reality is that China is set to pull it back. As China and Britain now opt to return to practical co-operation, Mr Patten is prepared to focus more on domestic, social and economic issues. By doing so, his last days of rule will not be remembered in history as a lost opportunity for Hong Kong to maintain its economic vitality and social harmony.