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HK can play key role in FTA with Asean

Gregory So argues for membership of the China-Asean free trade area


Basketball star Jeremy Lin made his first appearance in Hong Kong this week. Lin, whose remarkable success has been attributed to his unrelenting efforts and strong belief in himself, is, of course, a point guard. Point guards are usually not the tallest players on the court (Lin is 1.9 metres tall), but their role is crucial.

A point guard outwits his opponents by understanding their strategies and making appropriate decisions, leads his team in attack and defence as well as setting the pace of the game, and creates scoring opportunities. His contribution is often measured more by the number of assists than by individual points scored. Jason Kidd and Steve Nash are other exemplary point guards - agile, quick-thinking, and all-round talented team players.

As a small and nimble economy on the global economic stage, Hong Kong is able to set itself apart as Asia's "point guard". With international vision, sharp market sense and quick reactions, Hong Kong can efficiently boost trade in goods and services in the region, which helps enhance the overall effectiveness of global production and supply chains, as well as enable small and medium-sized enterprises to make the best use of their competitive edge.

To consolidate Hong Kong's status as Asia's world city, we actively participate in multilateral and regional economic co-operation. We would like to join the China-Asean Free Trade Area and have expressed this wish directly to the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. I believe Hong Kong's membership would bring better business opportunities not just to the city but to the entire region, and help to strengthen the overall trade and investment flow.

If we regard Asean, mainland China and Hong Kong as 12 players on the same team, I believe it would be easier for us to see the various challenges and opportunities with strategic clarity, and then strive to make the best use of the resources and strengths of each player on the team for the win. To borrow Lin's words, we need "the ability to see the entire floor, to see it from the vantage point of competitors and opponents, and to make right decisions for the team". Hong Kong has the right attributes, location and connections to perform this pivotal function.

Hong Kong joining the China-Asean free trade area would benefit the economies of all members and strengthen the ties between Asean and mainland China. This is exactly where Hong Kong can contribute most as Asia's "point guard".


Hong Kong could effectively contribute to increasing co-operation in business and trade, which would facilitate investment and further enhance our role as the bridgehead to promote link-ups and exchanges between mainland Chinese and Asean enterprises. This would open up more opportunities for the region, as well as help realise the potential to develop bilateral relationships between Hong Kong and emerging markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.

As Asia's "point guard", we can learn something from Lin, with his strong determination, perseverance and self-belief. We need to work as a team. Even if it is not Hong Kong that is scoring the points, our effectiveness in the "point guard" position would create scoring opportunities for the entire region.

Hong Kong can leverage its strengths in finance, commerce and trade, as well as professional services to provide a platform for promoting regional economic development; facilitating logistics development, free flows of goods, people, capital and information. With our support, I believe the team is ready to win.

By making full use of Hong Kong's experience in professional services such as finance, legal, accounting and arbitration, we can serve the mainland and Asean more effectively. This would further expedite and enhance the regional economic integration for achievements and sustainable growth.


I hope Hong Kong will join the free trade area as soon as possible to enable the full team to play on court, to show our force and strengths on the international economic stage.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Hong Kong can be Asia's 'point guard'ontrade