Innovation and trade top priorities for closer Hong Kong and Britain ties

Four areas for deeper cooperation identified, including smart city solutions and participation in China’s global trade development plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 10:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 11:09am

Hong Kong and Britain have identified four areas for deeper cooperation, including smart city solutions, technological innovation and taking part in China’s global trade development strategy, the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

For example, both economies will develop clear regulatory environments so fintech firms can operate easily in their markets, simplify procedures for small businesses, and boost joint research and development of health care technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics technologies.

In a statement on Wednesday, the city’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and Britain’s Department for International Trade said they would also share expertise in procurement and construction methods to boost the delivery and quality of belt and road projects.

On Saturday, the international trade department and InvestHK, the Hong Kong government’s investment promotion arm, will sign an agreement with a particular focus on innovation and technology.

“The UK and Hong Kong have strong ties because of our shared history and our close people-to-people links,” said Dr Liam Fox, secretary for the Department for International Trade. 

“Britain’s long-standing commitment to Hong Kong is as strong as ever,” he said ahead of the biggest British trade event of the year, the GREAT Festival of Innovation. The fair opened in Hong Kong on Wednesday and will close on Saturday.

“The [joint statement] has also set out some initial measures identified by the two governments. We will continue to explore other initiatives over the next 18 months,” the city’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said.

Britain’s impending departure from the European Union has prompted it to seek closer trade ties with countries around the world, including China. 

It has an ongoing “strategic dialogue” with Hong Kong to see how both governments can reduce trade barriers and develop joint initiatives, given that both economies have much in common, the country’s consul-general in the city told the Post earlier this year.

The joint statement also highlighted how Hong Kong and Britain were advocates for free trade and open markets and accorded high priority to the development of their respective creative industries. Both governments would also build on these areas of common interest, the statement said.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to Chinese rule in 1997 after 150 years but continues to review the affairs of its former colony, though it maintains it will not interfere in the city’s governance.

Last week, in British foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s latest six-monthly report on the city, he repeated concerns from his earlier report that the “one country, two systems” governing formula – under which Hong Kong is allowed a high degree of autonomy until 2047 – was under increasing pressure.

Beijing, through its foreign ministry spokesman, told Britain to back off, saying that Hong Kong affairs were purely China’s affairs, while a Hong Kong government spokesman said foreign governments should not interfere “in any form in the internal affairs” of the city.