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Hong Kong economy

Hong Kong’s commerce minister warns of rising protectionist sentiment in global trade

Edward Yau remains optimistic about city’s economic outlook, but advises caution over impact of global trade disputes and protectionist sentiment

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 December, 2017, 9:13pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 December, 2017, 9:15pm

Hong Kong’s commerce minister on Saturday warned of “rising protectionist sentiment” in the global trade environment, although he remained positive about the city’s economic outlook for the coming year.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah advised the city to beware of global issues impacting its economic outlook, despite “a very clear rebound” this year with 3.7 per cent growth and rising retail and tourism figures.

“While we are enjoying this positive achievement ... I am seeing that trade disputes or negative sentiments are not uncommon these days,” he said.

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“We are also seeing the lack of consensus on some very major and apparent issues that should support international trade, for instance, e-commerce, investment facilitation or support of micro, small or medium enterprises.

“All these are very important and pertinent questions that one would seek to address but they do not find favour or consensus among major players.”

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Yau cited the United States’ renegotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement and Brexit as examples of disgruntled developed nations complaining about not benefiting from global trade.

While Hong Kong enjoyed a warm trading environment on this side of the Asia-Pacific, he added, the world was not uniform.

“So we must be very vigilant and alert that on one hand we should seize opportunities that are given to us and ride on the fast stream,” he said, referring to China’s Belt and Road Initiative to open up trade along a new silk route and the Greater Bay Area scheme to develop a trading zone that would link Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.

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“On the other hand, we should be cautious of rising protectionist sentiment, even among some of our trading partners. I will say that for the coming year we should stay alert but remain positive.”