Shanghai will make a major effort to help the city's stock exchange co-operate with overseas counterparts, a sign plans for closer trading ties with Hong Kong are gaining pace. Shanghai mayor Han Zheng, at a conference this week to mark the setting up of a panel on establishing Shanghai as an international financial hub, said the city should accelerate moves to bring markets more in line with international practices. It was the first time a top Shanghai official had responded to calls last week from Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief Ronald Arculli to develop a single China market. The Hong Kong government earlier this month bought a 5.88 per cent stake in HKEx, a move that Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said would pave the way for share swaps with mainland exchanges. Shanghai did not provide more details on its plans. But an official with the Shanghai financial service office yesterday said 'the municipal government is studying the matter as part of the efforts to turn Shanghai into an international financial centre'. Mr Arculli proposed establishing a single listing and trading platform covering Hong Kong and Shanghai as well as the smaller Shenzhen market. 'There is little doubt that a unified market covering the mainland and Hong Kong will make for better allocation of listing resources and avoid unnecessary rivalry,' said Jerry Lou, Morgan Stanley's mainland equity strategist. 'It will also enhance efficiency in regulating the market.' Shanghai was determined to develop itself into a financial centre, becoming a magnet for global investors, Mr Han told the conference on Tuesday. 'We understand that the Hong Kong side is keen' to do a tie-up, said James Liu Xiaodong, a vice-president of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the nation's biggest market. 'But we can't comment on this for now.' A researcher with the exchange, who asked not to be named, said the Shanghai bourse was not willing to set up a single China market due to concerns about protecting its own interests. 'We view Hong Kong more as a rival than a partner,' he said. Mainland exchanges are attracting Hong Kong-listed heavyweights such as China Construction Bank to sell shares, adding lustre to a market that has overtaken Hong Kong to become Asia's second-largest stock exchange. 'The Shanghai exchange is now outshining the Hong Kong market, and its growth potential is huge,' said Professor Zhong Wei, a well-known financial expert at Beijing Normal University. 'There are questions whether Hong Kong wants to be a yuan-denominated market while severing its links with international players.'