Hong Kong should make most of belt and road opportunities, says city’s former leader CY Leung
- Now vice-chairman of top advisory body to Beijing, Leung believes new corridor to Singapore will be immune to impact of trade war
- Former chief executive dismisses US attacks on initiative as misunderstanding of strategy
Hong Kong should leverage its strengths in a new trade corridor linking western China with Singapore, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying has urged, saying the route would be immune from the trade war between the United States and China.
Leung, a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also dismissed the US’ attacks on Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative” during the recent Apec summit as a misunderstanding of China’s international trade strategy.
The vice-chairman of China’s top advisory body said the construction of the “southern transport corridor”, under belt and road, China’s plan to grow global trade, was an example of multilateral cooperation that would benefit China, Singapore and other economies.
The “southern transport corridor”, proposed by mainland authorities and Singapore, would connect the industrial municipality of Chongqing in southwestern China, with the seaports of Guangxi, a region bordering Vietnam, and eventually Singapore.
In recent years, Singapore has been working with China to build the trade route, with a Singaporean shipping company announcing its plan to invest 10 billion yuan (US$1.59 billion) in Guangxi to turn it into a “world-class” logistics hub this year.
On Wednesday, Leung attended a presentation of the latest study report on the “southern transport corridor”. The study, done by local think tank One Country Two Systems Research Institute, was commissioned by the Belt and Road Hong Kong Centre – an NGO co-founded by Leung to promote the national strategy in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Leung said the corridor was new to many Hongkongers, but was important for the city’s development as Hong Kong was an important a regional transport and logistics hub.
Urging the city to grasp the new opportunities, he said: “Hong Kong has very good conditions given our international network and common law systems … our status as an international transport hub could be elevated with the opportunities.”
The study report also noted that “Singapore has already acted fast in strategic deployment”.
“Hong Kong should be more proactive in participating in the scheme and grasp the opportunities,” the study said. It said the city should leverage its financial and professional services expertise for the region.
The report also added that Guangxi could become an important feeder port to Hong Kong.
Kristine Yang, a research officer in charge of the study, played down concerns that Singapore, which Hong Kong sees as a competitor and vice versa, would reap more benefits from the corridor as a gateway to Southeast Asia.
She said while Singapore lies at the heart of Asean, Hong Kong could play a unique role as a transport and trade hub, connecting the region with Japan and North America.
Yang said the ships between Guangxi and Hong Kong operate daily, while those between Guangxi and Singapore ran once every three days.
When asked if the scheme would be affected by the ongoing trade war between China and US, Leung said the region covered by the corridor had huge potential, and could be immune to external threats.
On Saturday, US Vice-President Mike Pence mocked the national strategy as a “constricting belt or a one-way road” at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Countering Pence’s accusation, Leung said the initiative was a multilateral scheme. “The southern transport corridor is a cooperation between China and Singapore … Not only the two countries, but also other Eurasian countries are set to benefit,” he said.
Facing a trade war and bumps along the belt and road, China may have to revisit the cost of its grand plan
Transport sector lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming conceded that the “southern transport corridor” was relatively new to the whole industry. He revealed that the Logistics Development Council, which advises the government on the subject matter, would lead a delegation to visit Guangxi to study the “southern transport corridor” in January.
“We hope Hong Kong could gain support from Asean countries in trading and transport, but I am not too worried,” Yick said, referring to the rivalry with Singapore. “The key is to build up a greater market as a whole.”