Speech by SCED at reception hosted by Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington, DC (English only)
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at a reception hosted by Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Washington, DC, the United States (US) on October 12 (Washington, DC time):
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening! I am delighted to be here in Washington, DC, the capital city of the US with numerous historic monuments, world-class museums and elegant heritage buildings. I am deeply impressed by the rich history, art and culture here.
The US and Hong Kong might be thousands of miles apart, but we always share close ties. In particular, we have long been important business partners. In 2015, the US was our second largest trading partner in the world after the Mainland. Our total trade reached nearly US$71 billion. From a business standpoint, the combined advantage of "one country" and "two systems" is compelling. It gives us and our business partners advantages no other economy in the world can offer: Hong Kong is part of China, when you do business with Hong Kong, you do business with China. But Hong Kong is distinct from other Chinese cities, as we have our own system. We have a level-playing field, and capital, information, trade and people flow freely through Hong Kong.
This is why over 7 900 overseas and Mainland Chinese companies keep offices in Hong Kong, including some 1 400 US companies. And that is why earlier this year, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation ranked Hong Kong first in its Index of Economic Freedom, the 22nd year in a row it has done so.
I am confident our partnership will only expand in the coming years. You may ask, exactly what opportunities are there in Hong Kong for the US companies? My quick and short answer to that is – there are plenty of opportunities in Hong Kong.
I am not going to repeat why Hong Kong is an excellent place for the US companies to do business, as well as the "super-connector" between Mainland China and the rest of the world. My ETO colleagues have done such a great job promoting Hong Kong, and people in this room are so well connected to Hong Kong that you can probably recite these Hong Kong advantages back to me.
And I am also not going to delve into the technical details of CEPA (the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement), the special free trade arrangement between Hong Kong and Mainland China, and that by partnering with Hong Kong, American companies can gain the same enhanced access to the massive Chinese consumer market. My ETO colleagues have made available for you a lot of materials on it.
What I would like to focus on today is something called the Belt and Road Initiative, a visionary plan spearheaded by President Xi himself. "Belt" refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt, and "Road" refers to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
This grand strategy encourages closer economic as well as cultural co-operation among some 60-plus economies, particularly those emerging economies spanning Asia, Europe and Africa. Belt and Road is, in essence, an invitation to the international community to join hands to take global and regional co-operation to new heights, in particular in terms of enhancing policy co-ordination, strengthening infrastructural facilities connectivity, facilitating unimpeded trade and investment, deepening financial integration and building people-to-people bonds.
You may wonder how the Belt and Road Initiative, which covers countries on the other sides of the oceans, is relevant to the US. The answer is simple. Belt and Road is not a fix line. It is a global vision to boost co-development by connecting economies along the route. The Initiative is open to all nations and is not limited by geography. Belt and Road invites people to think bigger and broader, and to go beyond the conventional geo-political confines.
Allow me, over the next few minutes, to share with you some of my thoughts on how Hong Kong may help you capitalise on the wealth of opportunities emerging from the Belt and Road Initiative.
Through the Belt and Road Initiative, we expect to see soaring investments in infrastructural facilities, deepening financial integration, expanding trade and the building of people-to-people bonds on a global scale. The Belt and Road Initiative covers various aspects and proposes co-operation in many sectors, but fundamentally the Initiative is about making connections. And I am proud to say that facilitating connections is also what Hong Kong is good at. This is how we see Hong Kong will contribute to, and benefit from, the Belt and Road blueprint.
Hong Kong may play this facilitator role perfectly, thanks to the unique advantages presented by our "one country, two systems" arrangement that I mentioned earlier. Hong Kong is an international gateway to Mainland China, offering unique physical and intangible connectivity to the Mainland with privileged trade and social access. In addition, Hong Kong has a well-established system that connects us to the international community in terms of our legal system, language, trade practices as well as lifestyle which international traders are familiar with.
Traders in all sectors, and from all jurisdictions, can trade freely in Hong Kong. And all people, businesses and organisations, regardless of their nationality, are treated exactly the same. Every business in Hong Kong can enjoy the same privileges and benefits provided by our international agreements.
Aside from trade, logistics is another key area that has been driving Hong Kong's development as an international business centre. The Belt and Road will catalyse the movement of people and goods, boosting demand for reliable logistics services. In this, Hong Kong is also well served. Indeed, Hong Kong boasts the world's fifth busiest container port, providing some 350 services a week to more than 500 destinations worldwide. Our 700 shipping-related companies offer a wide range of services, from ship management, broking and chartering to finance, marine insurance, legal, arbitration and many other support services. Our airport has been the busiest cargo airport in the world for more than 15 years. From Hong Kong, you can reach all major Asian economies within four hours' flight time. Half the world's population is just five hours away. The Maritime Silk Road will create fresh demand for shipping services. Logistics companies in the US will find it advantageous to establish a presence in Hong Kong, using our maritime services to tap into the markets of the Belt and Road.
Among the Belt and Road's main goals is promoting big-ticket infrastructural development, from highways and railways to maritime and aviation transport, as well as telecommunications and energy projects. Hong Kong certainly will have a lot to offer and the expertise to share when it comes to international co-operation on infrastructural projects envisaged under the Belt and Road. Why? Because we have a deep pool of talented professionals, from engineers and surveyors to architects, designers and planners, not to mention other professionals specialised in financing, insurance, arbitration, risk management and project consulting. All of them are experienced and eager to partner with overseas businesses, including American companies, to take part in the development, management and operation of infrastructural projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Other than professional services, financial services will of course be another important area for co-operation under the Belt and Road. Hong Kong is China's international financial centre and we are also one of the leading financial centres in the world. We have the experience, the expertise and the connections to serve as the fund-raising and financial management hub for the Belt and Road. We run the world's eighth-largest stock market in terms of market capitalisation, and in 2015, we rank first, globally, in terms of equity funds raised through initial public offerings.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world economy is in need of a new and strong driving force in the 21st century. I believe the ambitious concepts of the Belt and Road Initiative can be that much-needed force, and Hong Kong has what you need in a strategic partner as you venture into markets of the Belt and Road countries. I encourage you all to make full use of our advantages in tapping the massive Asian markets and beyond.
I look forward to welcoming our American friends to Hong Kong. And I hope to visit this captivating city again soon.
Ends/Thursday, October 13, 2016