HK's 'indispensable link' in B&R hailed

Updated: 2018-06-29 07:46

By Luo Weiteng in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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City's premier hub, gateway status will guarantee its 'facilitator' role for Belt and Road, summit heard

Hong Kong's role as the "facilitator" and "promoter" of the high-profile Belt and Road Initiative came into sharp focus on Thursday as top officials from the Chinese mainland and the SAR lauded its entrenched status as a premier regional business and commercial hub and its pivotal link between the mainland and the rest of the world.

The Third Belt and Road Summit, jointly organized by the HKSAR government and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), heard that Hong Kong's "indispensable connectivity", backed by the central government's strong resolve to spur global economic growth, would give full play to the city's impeccable strength.

"An international financial centre, and one of the world's great trading economies, Hong Kong has long served as a regional hub and a business bridge connecting Chinese mainland, Asia and the rest of the world," Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in opening remarks at the summit, themed "Collaborate for Success".

"We also embrace the free flow of capital, of goods, information and talent. That fluid connectivity will prove indispensable long down the Belt and Road," she said.

HKTDC Chairman Vincent Lo Hong-shui echoed similar sentiments. "As the commercial hub for the Belt and Road, Hong Kong is the best place to turn Belt and Road concepts into viable commercial ventures," he said.

Citing a traditional Chinese saying, "a common will is as strong as the bulwarks", Lam, who attended the summit for the second consecutive year since her election as the city's first female leader, said the B&R underscores the unswerving and unremitting pursuit of a high degree of cooperation among countries, the establishment of a sound bilateral and multi-lateral mechanism, as well as participation from different sectors.

Picking up steam

Xiao Yaqing, chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), told the conference the nation-led B&R Initiative, first mooted by President Xi Jinping in late 2013, has picked up steam in injecting a fresh bout of vigor and vitality into the world's economic growth.

Over the past five years, he said State-owned conglomerates under the supervision of the SASAC have taken part in more than 1,700 projects in the B&R countries and regions.

China has so far invested more than $5 trillion, providing loans exceeding $200 billion and offering nearly $400 billion in credit, with mainland enterprises setting up about 75 economic and trade cooperation zones along the B&R route, according to Ning Jizhe, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.

"Globalization has proved to be an irreversible trend the world over. There's no way out for protectionism, unilateralism and zero-sum game," said Xiao. "Riding high on the undertaking to press ahead with the Belt and Road Initiative, the mainland pledges to make more big strides in opening up its gargantuan economy. Hong Kong's unique status, as the gateway for overseas investors making inroads into the mainland and the springboard for domestic players going global, should take on a new significance," he added.

Seen as the pivotal point of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which together link the mainland with Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe through vital inland routes and sea lanes, and representing the two major arms of the B&R Initiative, Hong Kong can surely play a big role in bolstering the country's vision of reviving its ancient trade route, Ning said.

Best of both worlds

Lam noted that Hong Kong, as a key Asian financial center having the best of both worlds, is also the continent's largest asset management center and the world's biggest offshore renminbi hub, handling up to 76 percent of the Chinese currency's overseas transactions.

She expressed full confidence in the SAR's role as the fund-raising hub for green finance, highlighting a HKSAR Government-backed green bond issuance program with a borrowing ceiling of $13 billion that's in the pipeline.

Gao Yan, vice-minister of the Ministry of Commerce, told the summit Hong Kong is more than a natural fund-raising center for B&R-related infrastructure, investment and production projects - it's also the region's logistical and transport hub.

She cited the mega Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, which is slated to open later this year, and the Hong Kong section of the Guangdong-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link as projects that will polish the city's brand as the "super-connector".

And, with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area adding flesh to the bones of the B&R vision, Hong Kong's impeccable strength could be given full play in a more integrated manner, Gao said.

Summing up, Lam said: "Taking advantage of the varying expertise that abounds in a cluster of nine flourishing cities in Guangdong province, along with Hong Kong and Macao, the Bay Area will rise as a global center for finance, high-end services and innovation and technology."

"Hong Kong, Asia's world city, has much to offer."

HK's 'indispensable link' in B&R hailed

HK's 'indispensable link' in B&R hailed

Wang Zhimin (sixth from left, front row), director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR, and other dignitaries join Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (seventh from right, front row) for a group photo at the Third Belt and Road Summit held in Hong Kong on Thursday. Provided to China Daily

(HK Edition 06/29/2018 page6)