Developments on round-the-clock border opening and closer economic ties with the mainland resulting from Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's trip to Beijing were welcomed yesterday. Felix Chan Kwok-wai, president of the Chamber of Small and Medium Business, hailed the introduction of 24-hour passenger crossing at Lok Ma Chau, due to be introduced by the Lunar New Year, saying it would help members develop business on the mainland. 'With intense competition within the Pearl River Delta, smaller business might be forced to go beyond Guangdong, and the 24-hour operation could meet their needs of frequent travel,' he said. Priscilla Lau Pui-king, associate professor in the department of business studies at the Polytechnic University, said the development could bring huge social benefits for both Hong Kong and the mainland. 'It can significantly cut the time spent on cross-border crossings and facilitate integration between the SAR and the Pearl River Delta.' But she added that round-the-clock passenger clearance at the Lowu checkpoint was more important and the SAR government should strive to achieve this. A local delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Lau Nai-keung, said the breakthroughs indicated that the central government was determined to boost Hong Kong's economy. Shenzhen Mayor Yu Youjun said last week round-the-clock opening of the border was not essential if the existing hours could cope with the passenger flow. But Ms Lau said her understanding was that Guangdong authorities had been more enthusiastic about 24-hour operation of border crossings than their counterparts in the SAR. 'The Hong Kong government, particularly senior civil servants responsible for the issue, were hesitant about the implementation,' she said. 'Now the government recognises cross-border integration is an irreversible trend.' Lau Nai-keung said the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement could create lots of room for Hong Kong industries. Mr Tung announced yesterday that talks on this issue would be completed by the end of June. 'Products manufactured in Hong Kong will be tariff-free under the agreement and it may prompt some factories set up by Hong Kong companies in Guangdong to move back to the territory,' Mr Lau said. Legislator Lau Kwong-wah, from the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, and Howard Young from the Liberal Party welcomed the developments and said adequate transport arrangements needed to be in place before the implementation of 24-hour border opening. Lau Kwong-wah added: 'There has been huge demand for people who need to visit their families across the border. But proper transport arrangements are essential.' Man For-tai, director of the Lok Ma Chau-Huanggang Shuttle Bus Service, said they would strengthen services to meet increased demand following the start of round-the-clock opening. 'We will deploy extra manpower after midnight and plan our bus frequency flexibly in response to demand,' he said.