Mainland economists have delivered a mixed response to the idea of a free trade zone with Hong Kong, some saying it will provide badly needed help to the region and others that it is unnecessary. The proposal was the main focus of talks yesterday between Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation in Beijing. Lu Jinyong, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics, was in favour of the plan, saying the zone probably would cover only part of the mainland, including Guangdong. '[World Trade Organisation] entry is expected to weaken the role of Hong Kong and Macau as a window between the mainland and the world, since the mainland increasingly deals and trades directly with the world market,' Professor Lu said. 'The central government wants to support their development. It hopes that the free trade zone will help stabilise Hong Kong and Macau socially and economically, and ultimately help bring Taiwan back to the motherland.' Professor Lu was in favour of giving preferential access to Hong Kong's services, including law, accounting, banking, insurance and tourism, but expected only limited access would be granted. An economist at a Beijing institute also supported the proposal. 'Hong Kong has a limited future as a transshipment centre. How about a free trade zone between Hong Kong, Macau and parts of south China? This would be attractive to foreign investors, who would consider the area as a single unit,' the economist said. However, Wang Zhile, director at a research centre for studying multinational companies under the trade ministry, said: 'Initially, the idea was meant to cover Shenzhen but other provinces opposed the idea. It is very hard to implement this nationwide. I have not seen any detailed proposal.'