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World Economic Forum

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam calls for less inequality and more opportunity during Davos visit

Chief executive reiterates city’s good economic outlook, citing growth last year of at least 3.7 per cent

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2018, 12:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 January, 2018, 11:23pm

Hong Kong’s leader returned home on Saturday after promising to address issues such as income disparity and a lack of opportunities for young people as she wrapped up her five-day trip at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will next visit Beijing from Wednesday to Sunday to attend a forum on the central government’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.

“This was my first time attending the forum as a chief executive,” Lam said. “There have not been any high-level government officials from Hong Kong attending the meeting since 2012.

“The government and I have both benefited a lot from [the trip], because this can raise Hong Kong’s status in such an important international forum.”

On her last day in Davos, Lam spoke in a panel discussion on the global economic outlook, together with central bankers from Japan and Britain, among others.

“We should take the opportunity to improve governance ... and to put in place sound social policies,” Lam said.

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These policies would address issues such as poverty, income inequality and a lack of opportunities for young people, she said.

Lam said her government would also focus on building more trade routes, especially with Asean, and working with other regions on regulation.

Elsewhere at the same event, US president Donald Trump suggested an intellectual property fine, in what could foreshadow a trade war with China.

This week, he decided on imposing a 30 per cent tax on solar panel imports, which many said would seriously affect China, the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer.

Lam said any such barrier to trade would be a bad thing for Hong Kong.

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“Being such an externally oriented economy and so dependent on free trade, [Hong Kong] would not like to see any trade conflicts or trade wars, so to speak,” she said.

Lam said China, as a developing economy, would evolve to make trade more transparent and fair.

She reiterated the positive outlook for Hong Kong’s economy this year, citing last year’s growth of at least 3.7 per cent, compared with 2 per cent in 2016.

“I have not discovered a leaking roof in Hong Kong yet,” she said.

During her five days at the forum, Lam attended eight panel discussions and spoke in two.

She also attended 12 bilateral meetings with political and business leaders from other countries.

Lam saw to the signing of three memorandums of understanding between the Hong Kong government and Swiss financial authorities, as well as between the Hong Kong Private Wealth Management Association and the Swiss Bankers Association.

The papers promote more cooperation in areas such as the internationalisation of the Chinese yuan, wealth management and fintech.