A regional business hub

Updated: 2013-01-25 06:44

By Jonathan Choi Koon-shum (HK Edition)

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Hong Kong's economy was affected by many uncertainties involving global economic development in 2012. Looking ahead, the external economic situation is still filled with challenges, while Hong Kong faces many economic and quality of life issues that require sincere cooperation among all walks of life as well as the SAR government.

It is to be hoped that the SAR government will shake off the various political distractions and introduce policies and measures designed to boost economic development and improve the overall well-being of the population by seizing the opportunities arising from the country's 12th Five-Year Plan. All members of Hong Kong society, meanwhile, should join in efforts to supporting the SAR government in implementing the policies and measures aimed at advancing the city's long-term development.

At a time when global and regional economic cooperation is gathering pace, especially when the mainland's economy and other East Asian economies are developing apace, Hong Kong should do its best to maintain its competitive edge and find the right position, We need to step up regional economic cooperation with the mainland and other East Asian economies to broaden our perspectives and to seize opportunities as they emerge.

Since the mainland's reform and opening began, Hong Kong has played a role as an important trade hub between the mainland and the rest of the world. That role of Hong Kong allowed various industries and sectors on the mainland to benefit from infinite business opportunities. Hong Kong also acts as an intermediary and has contributed a great deal to exchanges between the mainland and the outside world.

The implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) not only fuels Hong Kong industries' development in many ways, but also opens new paths for Hong Kong residents and industries to explore career and business opportunities. Xi Jinping's visit to Qianhai in neighboring Shenzhen and Hengqin in Zhuhai on his first trip outside Beijing after taking office as the new top leader of the Communist Party of China indicates the central government has great expectations for the "Golden Triangle in Guangdong", which also includes Nansha in Guangzhou.

These new development districts enjoy the advantage of trying out new policies and measures ahead of the rest of the mainland, and will serve as new platforms for Guangdong-Hong Kong cooperation. Therefore Hong Kong must be more forthcoming in carrying out all-round cooperation with the "Golden Triangle in Guangdong", beginning with faster integration of modern services. That will open up more room for prosperity on both sides of the boundary, broader hinterland for Hong Kong's economy and more opportunities for Hong Kong-based professional talents as well as enterprises to expand their career horizons and business growth.

At the same time, Hong Kong should also be more active in helping mainland enterprises explore overseas markets, which is a natural path for Hong Kong to secure its own development as a world-class financial, trade and shipping center and an important hub for regional cooperation. Trade between the Chinese mainland and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is growing very fast. From 2003 through 2010, China-ASEAN trade rose by an average of 24 percent a year to reach a total of $297 billion in 2010, $362.9 billion in 2011 and $400 billion last year. Currently the ASEAN is the third largest trading partner of the Chinese mainland, which at the same time is the No 1 trading partner of the ASEAN.

Hong Kong has been a beneficiary of this growing trade. In 2011, Hong Kong-ASEAN trade rose to $93.3 billion from $85.4 billion in the year before, an increase of 10 percent. Five of the ASEAN member states are among Hong Kong's top 20 trading partners, including Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Trade between the Chinese mainland and ASEAN countries via Hong Kong has increased markedly as well, from $33.6 billion in 2008 to $44.2 billion in 2011.

I have been lobbying the central government, the SAR government and heads of ASEAN states over the past three years, for the city's participation in the China-ASEAN Free trade Agreement (ACFTA), also known as 10+1. This will no doubt allow Hong Kong to play its unique role even more effectively in the mainland's modernization drive.

Given Hong Kong's large pool of talent in highly value-added services and highly-developed infrastructure, its presence in the ACFTA will surely boost regional as well as its local economic development through service trade with the fastest growing consumer market in the world boasting a combined population of 1.9 billion. Most of the ASEAN countries welcome Hong Kong. This year I will join efforts involving all parties concerned to achieve this goal.

The author is a Hong Kong member of the CPPCC.

(HK Edition 01/25/2013 page3)