Technology boost to reinforce Hong Kong’s status as finance and trade centre in bay area plan

New pact lays down goals on how Hong Kong, Macau and mainland should work together towards integration

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 9:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 10:37pm

Innovation and technological developments in Hong Kong will be boosted under an agreement on the Greater Bay Area project signed by local and mainland officials on Saturday and witnessed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The city will also continue to strengthen its role as the region’s financial and shipping hub, according to the framework agreement. It also provided clarity and assurance to counter uncertainties in recent months on what role Hong Kong will play under the plan and how it will be executed.

The move came shortly after Xi announced at the new administration’s inauguration that Beijing authorities would “actively consider adopting concrete measures to make it more convenient for the people of Hong Kong to study, work and live on the mainland, and provide more opportunities for them”.

The project, which covers Hong Kong, Macau and nine Pearl River Delta cities, was proposed by Guangdong officials several years ago, and grew into a strategic project with the endorsement of Premier Li Keqiang in March.

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Saturday’s agreement was signed by Hong Kong’s new chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui and the chairman of National Development and Reform Commission, He Lifeng.

According to a statement released by the Hong Kong government, the agreement stipulated that the goals of cooperation would include “consolidating and enhancing” Hong Kong’s status as a global financial, shipping and trade centre, as well as promoting Hong Kong’s innovation and technology industries.

The agreement also set out how Hong Kong, Macau and mainland authorities should work together, such as convening regular meetings to resolve major problems arising from the integration scheme, and drawing up annual work plans.

The signing of the agreement was seen by commentators as another boost for the city’s economic prospects after it was announced on Friday that a scheme called the Bond Connect will use Hong Kong as the staging point to access China’s interbank bond market, one of several economic gifts that Beijing has bestowed on the city to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

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Local and mainland officials also agreed to cooperate on a series of goals, such as promoting infrastructure connectivity, enhancing the level of market integration and building a global technology and innovation hub.

After Xi left Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon, Lam, her predecessor Leung Chun-ying, and Chui attended a forum to further discuss the Greater Bay Area plan, along with business leaders and mainland officials.

My government will put in more resources for research and development in our universities
Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Lam said Hong Kong’s strength will enable the city to play a key role in four main areas, including finance, logistics, trading, and innovation.

“My government will put in more resources for research and development in our universities ... Hong Kong has a lot of technology experts. This important talent pool will help to power the Greater Bay Area continuously,” Lam said.

Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua said the bay area concept will elevate cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau to a higher level.

“We welcome companies ... and young people to go to the provinces to innovate and start their new businesses,” Hu said.

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, chair of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, said the concept will benefit technology companies.

“Part of Hong Kong’s strength is its international connection – we can attract global talents to come to our city,” Law said. “But Hong Kong’s market is small and we have a shortage of land, so if we can expand to the mainland, it will be very good.”