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Hong Kong gets central backing to join RCEP

By ZHONG NAN in Beijing and OSWALD CHAN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-02 07:02
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The Chinese national flags and flags of the Hong Kong SAR flutter in Hong Kong. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Ministry of Commerce will support the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement as a separate customs territory as soon as possible, in the latest effort to help the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong complement each other and achieve common growth, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, addressing the sixth Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong via video link, said the ministry will support Hong Kong in conducting free trade agreement negotiations with other countries, playing a role in Asia-Pacific economic cooperation and further enhancing its position as an international financial, trade and shipping center. The summit is being held on Wednesday and Thursday.

The RCEP, the world's largest free trade deal, comprises 15 Asia-Pacific economies: the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand. They have been pushing for the RCEP agreement to take effect next year.

Wang said that supporting Hong Kong's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative is an important measure taken by the country to carry out high-level opening-up. It is also a significant way for the mainland and Hong Kong to complement each other and achieve common growth.

The ministry will continue to implement policies and measures in commercial sectors to support the growth of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, encourage Hong Kong companies to participate in major exhibitions on the mainland, and enhance the convergence of rules in key areas such as the Shenzhen Pilot Demonstration Zone and Hainan Free Trade Port, he added.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of Hong Kong, emphasized the significance of multilateralism amid the continuing spread of protectionism across the globe.

The BRI and the RCEP free trade agreement will boost the manifold benefits of multilateralism, she said.

The value of trade between Hong Kong and the 15 member economies of the RCEP amounted to $770 billion in 2020, accounting for 73 percent of its total export and import volume. It has also signed free trade agreements with 13 RCEP member economies, according to the regional government.

Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said, "There is another promising connection between the BRI and RCEP-Hong Kong has direct access to the mainland economy. We are the ideal springboard to and between the Chinese mainland and the Asian market."

"Hong Kong's deep liquidity, outstanding financial infrastructure and wide-ranging options for raising capital can meet the financing needs of any BRI projects," said Chan.

The SAR government is looking into securitizing infrastructure loans to provide banks with opportunities to offload their loans to long-term investors so that they have the capacity to finance more new projects, he added.

Also on Wednesday, the Ministry of Commerce and the SAR government jointly signed a memorandum of cooperation on promoting the high-quality development of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones.

The mainland and Hong Kong will leverage their respective advantages to promote in-depth cooperation between their businesses in the zones, as well as cooperation with host countries, to reach win-win results.

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