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China Conference

‘Don’t miss the boat’, Shenzhen Qianhai Authority urges Hong Kong to seize opportunity provided by the Trade plan

Experts warn Hong Kong could become marginalised if it fails to act on the mainland trade growth strategy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 4:30pm

Hong Kong needs to do more to take advantage of the “One Belt, One Road” plan - and if the opportunity is not embraced, the city could end up marginalised, said Shenzhen Qianhai Authority’s principal liaison officer Witman Hung.

Hung said the city would suffer economically if it failed to participate in the Beijing-led economic co-operation project which will stretch across Asia, the Middle East and Europe, warning of potentially harsh consequences.

“If the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative failed, god forbid, China would have a problem and Hong Kong would be dead,” Hung said during an afternoon panel session at the One Belt, One Road China Conference, sponsored by the South China Morning Post, on Friday.

“What we need to do is provide better services. We need to think about what we can offer, what we can do in Hong Kong.”

Hung said Hong Kong could get involved in financing, providing professional services such as helping with mergers and project managers, and as an information technology hub.

He said Hong Kong had been “too complacent”, which explained why the city’s companies had a low presence in other markets.

“Don’t miss the boat, well prepare yourself,” he said.

“Remember this city called Venice,” he said. “It was once upon a time the biggest trading hub in the world and now there are people there blowing glass.”

“What can we offer with this 7 million people, with this city with no natural resources?” he questioned.

Silk Road Associates founder and managing director, Ben Simpfendorfer, said there was a tendency in Hong Kong to say: “We can’t benefit from Hong Kong because we don’t do business in Kazakhstan.”

“To which my response is: ‘Well Kazakhstan has a smaller population and GDP than Shanghai. Why are we even thinking about Kazakhstan?’”

Instead of worrying about countries like Kazakhstan which were relatively small markets, he urged Hong Kong to focus on Southeast and South Asia where the business opportunities were much greater.

Albert Wong, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation’s chief executive officer, agreed that Hong Kong would be “marginalised” if it didn’t get more involved.

“Hong Kong could be the starting point for Southeast Asia.”

He added that there were no “low-hanging fruit” in developing countries anymore, so companies that wanted to get involved needed to be prepared to take a risk.