Heilongjiang, China's northernmost province, has great potential in terms of co-operation with Hong Kong, the booming special administrative region in the southern part of the country, said leaders from both sides.
Despite the great distance between the two, both sides have natural advantages that will further enhance cooperation, said Li Zhanshu, governor of Heilongjiang province, during a recent economic cooperation exchange conference in Harbin, the provincial capital.
Headed by Chief Executive Donald Tsang, a Hong Kong delegation consisting of more than 120 officials and businesspeople, met officials and businesspeople from the province.
As an international financial and trade center, Hong Kong has sound fiduciary environment, enormous pool of capital and advanced management experience which all add to its appeal, Li said.
As one of the old industrial centers of China, Heilongjiang in turn offers energy, raw materials and one of the country's most important sources of grain, he said.
The northern province's rich mineral resources, sufficient power supply, abundant labor, and position adjacent to Russia also make it appealing to entrepreneurs and investors, he said.
Both regions got a shot in the arm when the central government launched its strategy to rejuvenate aging industrial centers and signed a partnership agreement with the government of the Hong Kong special administrative region on closer economic cooperation.
Li said increasing exchanges have raised awareness among people from all walks of life in Hong Kong, who now have considerable knowledge about their northern counterpart.
"We harbor great hopes and attach great importance to our future cooperation," he said.
Li said, with unique geographic advantages, the northern province has always been a pioneer in trade with neighboring Russia.
Its trade volume with Russia reached one-fifth of the nation's total last year.
Heilongjiang shares more than 1,000 km of land borders with Russia and boasts several major inland port cities.
The annual Harbin International Economic and Trade Fair, held in June in Harbin every year, has evolved into the largest comprehensive business exchange platform aimed at the Far Eastern areas of Russia, attracting thousands of businesspeople from Russia each year, Li said.
"Thus, with all these advantages, we hope that companies from both Heilongjiang and Hong Kong can join forces to tap the vast and fledging trade market with Russia," he added.
Meanwhile, Li said that Hong Kong businesspeople are welcome to join in infrastructure construction in the province as it is launching large-scale upgrades of its roads, railways, airports and ports to facilitate future development and attract more investment.
He also expressed his hope that Hong Kong investors may be interested in participating the reform and technical retrofitting of the province's large number of State-owned enterprises.
The northeast province, which was one of the most important industrial bases following the founding of New China, was the last one to embark on the journey of transforming its planned economy into a market-oriented one.
Many of its vast number of State-owned enterprises, which used to rely on government orders rather than market demand, faced problems and were on the verge of closure.
The only way out was to go through merger or reform and introduce investment in order to regain their vitality.
"(Hong Kong) investors are welcome to take part in the reform of these State-owned enterprises into shareholding ones and help rejuvenate them with their advanced management experiences," he said.
"With your help, companies in Heilongjiang can get better access to the global capital market and develop their own financial services," he added.
Meanwhile, as one of the most important grain producers in the country, Heilongjiang boasts an industry with great potential - organic food.
"As a most promising industry, Hong Kong investors will notice the huge potential in this area," Li said.
Echoing Li, Chief Executive Donald Tsang said that it is good to enhance economic and trade cooperation between Hong Kong and Heilongjiang in a favorable domestic environment.
"Considerable opportunities lie ahead of us," he said. Besides rich natural resources and great advantages in rising industries, Heilongjiang also boasts cutting-edge scientific research achievements and flourishing border trade with Russia, he said.
Hong Kong enterprises can make full use of these advantages to expand exchanges and cooperation, he added.
Tsang said Hong Kong's professionals are glad to provide services to Heilongjiang by sharing experiences in management, marketing and building brands and helping Heilongjiang enterprises' reach out to the world.