The idea of forming a common market spanning nine southern mainland provinces got a mixed response from provincial leaders attending the first Pan-Pearl River Delta forum in Hong Kong yesterday. All nine provinces have pledged to take part in the scheme, proposed and championed by Guangdong party boss Zhang Dejiang . But in their speeches outlining future co-operation, the enthusiasm shown by provincial leaders varied from wholehearted to lukewarm. Mr Zhang and Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua were the vocal supporters of the plan, which would greatly enhance the influence of the Pearl River Delta and give Guangdong a huge hinterland. Mr Zhang, a member of the Politburo and the most senior provincial official at the forum, compared the Pan-Pearl River Delta with the European Union and Asean. He said regionalisation was a new trend which was as inevitable as globalisation. Mr Huang echoed his superior's view. He called for the establishment of a permanent co-operation mechanism among the provincial governments. 'Guangdong and eight other provinces, plus Hong Kong and Macau, are close neighbours ... [Establishing the Pan-Pearl River Delta] is a natural choice and a common choice,' he said. Inland provinces Hunan, Jiangxi and Guangxi, which traditionally share strong ties with Guangdong, are also eager to take part. Jiangxi Governor Huang Zhiquan said 56 per cent of the foreign investment to Jiangxi came from Hong Kong and Macau. Hunan Governor Zhou Bohua said there were three million Hunan people working in factories in Guangdong. They both believed closer ties could help spread the prosperity to the inland. But representatives from Fujian and southwestern provinces, such as Guizhou , are rather vague on the details of their plan to co-operate with others. Fujian is the only province whose governor was absent from the forum, having sent its deputy governor, Huang Xiaojin. While he pledged to join the scheme, he also repeatedly stressed the province's role as the partner for both the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta. 'Fujian faces Taiwan and is close to Hong Kong and Macau. It is north of the Pearl River Delta and south of the Yangtze River Delta. Our geographic location is quite unique,' he said. 'We will actively promote co-operation with the Pearl River Delta as well as with the Yangtze River Delta. Fujian, just like the two delta regions, has an open and developed economy.'