LCQ18: Assisting enterprises in participating in Belt and Road Initiative
Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):
The Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road Initiative) is a concept of multinational economic co-operation proposed by our country in the recent two years. The Chief Executive has announced in his Policy Address this year that a steering committee for the Belt and Road as well as a Belt and Road Office will be set up for formulating strategies and policies for Hong Kong’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and taking forward related studies respectively. Some heads of enterprises have relayed to me that as Hong Kong is an international financial, trading and maritime centre, and enjoys the unique leverage of “One Country, Two Systems”, the Government should proactively encourage various sectors to bring local advantages into play and capitalise on the opportunities offered by the Belt and Road Initiative. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the Belt and Road Initiative involves more than 60 countries and regions and quite a number of them are emerging countries, whether the authorities have conducted studies on the background of such economies, including their business environment, market potential, investment risks, etc., and provided enterprises intended to develop emerging markets, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the relevant study findings for their reference, so as to boost their confidence in making investments; of the measures in place to proactively assist SMEs in capitalising the opportunities offered by the Belt and Road Initiative and facilitate the development of the relevant trades and industries so as to achieve the result of “making the pie bigger” as said by the Government;
(2) whether it will formulate standing measures to provide appropriate support to local enterprises which are embroiled in commercial or legal disputes in the Belt and Road economies; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) as there are views that infrastructure is an integral part of the development opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative and will hence drive up the demands for relevant professional services, and that a number of Belt and Road economies are in desperate need of improvement in terms of infrastructural facilities (such as road networks), housing and town planning while our local construction companies, consultant firms and contractors have been downsizing and cutting pay recently due to the economic downturn, whether the Government will take the initiative to help local professional sectors engage in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative and the relevant industries to enable local professionals who have reached international standards to give full play to their expertise; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Tse, after consulting relevant policy bureaux and departments, is as follows:
(1) To help the trade, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), better understand the Belt and Road Initiative and follow closely its development, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) launched a Belt and Road Portal in December 2015. This Portal provides enterprises interested in developing new markets along the Belt and Road with up-to-date and comprehensive market intelligence, as well as information on Hong Kong professional services providers and investment projects of economies along the Belt and Road, so as to help businesses seize opportunities arising from the Belt and Road Initiative and to identify suitable business partners by making use of the platform and services of Hong Kong. TDC will continue to enhance the content of this Portal, and will expand the scope of business covered by the services providers.
Moreover, TDC also introduces to the trade, including SMEs, business opportunities and networking events under the Belt and Road Initiative through outreach missions, seminars, industry associations and reference information from the TDC SME Centre, and encourages Hong Kong companies to enhance their connections with businesses in the Mainland or overseas and to expand their business networks.
TDC also introduces Belt and Road-themed sessions in relevant large-scale international conferences and exhibitions held or to be held in Hong Kong, such as the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference, Asian Financial Forum and Hong Kong International Film & TV Market, and organised the inaugural Belt and Road Summit in association with the Government in May this year, to encourage the business sector to explore opportunities arising from the Initiative.
Through departments and public organisations, the Government provides local enterprises with various support measures, including the launch of the SME Funding Schemes, provision of latest market information and rendering of technical support and consultation services, with a view to enhancing the competitiveness of the enterprises.
(2) One of the principles of the Belt and Road Initiative is to follow market rules and let the market decide on the allocation of resources. While seeking reasonable returns, enterprises should manage risks prudently. The main role of the Government is to promote and protect trade and investment.
The Government has been actively strengthening economic and trade ties with the emerging markets along the Belt and Road, promoting visits by senior officials, and forging bilateral agreements such as Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs), with a view to expanding business opportunities and providing institutional protection for the trade.
(3) The Development Bureau (DEVB) and the Mainland authorities have jointly built an effective communication channel to facilitate the construction-related sectors of Hong Kong and the Mainland to enhance mutual understanding and strengthen co-operation, with a view to capturing the opportunities from the Belt and Road Initiative. Indeed, Hong Kong construction-related sectors have participated in various development projects and provided professional services for some pilot projects (including two Mainland’s foreign aid construction projects at Nepal and Cambodia as well as development projects invested by Hong Kong enterprises in Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Co-operation Zone). Their work in these projects has been well received. Moreover, we are discussing with the Mainland authorities on expanding the scope of involvement of Hong Kong enterprises in these projects. For instance, the scope may be extended from supervision work to include a full range of services from design, project management, tendering, site supervision to commissioning and testing of works. We also understand that the industry looks for continual support from the Government for enterprises and professionals to conduct overseas visits, including to countries along the Belt and Road. In this connection, DEVB organised together with TDC a visit to Myanmar by a delegation of professionals last year. DEVB will continue to organise similar visits in the second half of this year.
The Government has been promoting the development of the professional services sector through efforts on various fronts, including improving market access of our local service sectors to economies around the world, and promoting our service providers in places outside Hong Kong through the proactive organisation of promotion programmes. We also provide funding support for external promotion projects undertaken by the professional services sector, so as to assist the industry in tapping opportunities outside Hong Kong.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2016