Structured Dialogue meeting between European Union and Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region explores ways to deepen relations
The 10th annual Structured Dialogue meeting between the European Union (EU) and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSARG) took place yesterday (November 17, Central European time) in Brussels. The Structured Dialogue is a high-level event at which the EU and the HKSARG meet to deepen their mutual understanding and ensure coherence in the overall bilateral relationship.
The meeting was co-chaired by the Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific of the European External Action Service, Mr Gunnar Wiegand, and the Deputy Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Commerce and Industry) of the HKSARG, Ms Vivian Sum. The two sides discussed a wide range of subjects, reviewing recent collaborative successes and identifying areas for further co-operation.
Mr Wiegand welcomed the HKSARG delegation and reflected on the excellent relationship between the EU and the HKSARG. The close trade and investment partnership between the EU and Hong Kong is evidenced by the volume of trade in goods and services as well as by the direct investment momentum. The EU remains Hong Kong's second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade in goods and services amounting to EUR 72 billion (HK$619 billion) in 2015. Moreover, the EU is the third largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Hong Kong, while Hong Kong is one of the top 10 investors in the EU.
Mr Wiegand stated, "Hong Kong will continue to play a crucial role as a regional hub for EU companies and investors. Hong Kong's freedom, rule of law, and transparency are its major assets." He added that, "As the third largest FDI source to Hong Kong with more than 2 000 companies present in Hong Kong, the EU is an interested party and a stakeholder in the future of Hong Kong and a keen observer of its development."
Ms Sum said, "Hong Kong will continue to work closely with the EU on issues of common interest for the benefit of the Hong Kong and EU economies. We treasure our strong and longstanding connections with the EU and are ready to further strengthen our ties in various areas, including bilateral trade and investment, financial services and customs affairs."
At the meeting, both sides provided updates on developments in their economies, including the initiatives on free trade agreements and investment agreements, and exchanged views on the prospect of bilateral negotiations on investment. The Hong Kong side updated the EU on the latest developments in the financial services sector, such as the progress of the legislative exercise for the proposed auditor regulatory regime for public interest entity auditors; the amendments to the Inland Revenue Ordinance to clarify tax treatments in respect of the regulatory capital securities issued by banks in compliance with the Basel III capital adequacy requirements; the enactment of the Financial Institutions (Resolution) Ordinance; and the establishment of an independent Insurance Authority. The EU was also briefed on Hong Kong's latest progress in taking forward the implementation of automatic exchange of financial account information in tax matters (AEOI) and Hong Kong's plan to expand its AEOI network with its tax treaty partners, including those which are EU member states.
The EU side updated Hong Kong on the latest developments in Europe highlighting that the EU is an attractive destination for economic operators and investors from around the world, including Hong Kong. The Investment Plan for Europe is offering excellent investment opportunities, which are available on the European Investment Project Portal. Further updates included developments regarding financial regulation, in particular the creation of the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union. The two sides also updated each other on the implementation of measures against base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) under the aegis of the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The 10th Structured Dialogue has achieved significant results. Firstly, the EU and the HKSARG reached an understanding on measures to facilitate the export of meat and meat products from the EU. The implementation of these measures will follow shortly. Furthermore, both sides will continue discussions on food safety and health-related issues.
In addition, both parties welcomed the positive results of the pilot project on co-operation in customs enforcement of intellectual property rights between the EU and Hong Kong. Both sides also reaffirmed their commitments against counterfeiting under the EU-Hong Kong Action Plan and agreed to continue working closely to sustain the momentum. In relation to customs co-operation, the parties agreed the next stages in the negotiating process for the Mutual Recognition Agreement of Authorised Economic Operators.
The EU and the HKSARG exchanged views on key areas such as the actions taken by both sides to tackle climate change after the Paris climate summit. They also decided to co-ordinate efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.
With regard to the issue of Government Procurement under Hong Kong's current regulatory regime, both sides exchanged views on the operation of the Hong Kong procurement system, and agreed to explore areas for enhancing co-operation.
The parties agreed to strengthen their co-operation within the World Trade Organization as well as in the context of plurilateral trade agreements with a view to bringing various ongoing processes, including the Environmental Goods Agreement and the Trade in Services Agreement, to a successful conclusion.
Finally, the EU and the HKSARG expressed their willingness to increase people-to-people contacts, notably in the areas of academic co-operation, student mobility, culture and creative industries.
The EU and the HKSARG will maintain close contact through the established channels.
Ends/Friday, November 18, 2016