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SAR gets 2-year headstart over rivals
( 2003-06-30 11:29) (China Daily HK Edition)

The signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between Hong Kong and the mainland yesterday was widely seen by business people as a shot in the arm for the sagging local economy.

The extent of the benefits will depend on how well business people can tap the potential.

"CEPA gives Hong Kong a two-year headstart over potential foreign rivals," said Priscilla Lau, associate head of Department of Business Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

But she told Cable TV that the results would only become apparent in the longer term.

Higher value added industry would benefit the most from CEPA, said Eden Woon, chief executive officer of Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

One of the important effects of CEPA will be to drive the industrial restructuring further towards more innovation. Zero tariffs will encourage more manufacturing in brand-name goods and products with a high intellectual property content, further enhancing the competitiveness of the manufacturing industries, like design and audio-visual production, he said.

"A CEPA-like arrangement is coveted by at least thirty countries around the world and Hong Kong is the only one which can get it. This has to be great news."

Victor Li, deputy chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings, agrees that CEPA will bring greater development in Hong Kong's high technology industry.

He said the company would expand its life-sciences business in Hong Kong as there would be more room for growth.

Andrew Leung, deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said the agreement would bring particular benefits for the jewellery, watches and clocks, and cosmetics industries.

Lau Ping-cheung, vice-chairman of Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services, said CEPA will bring immediate benefits on a professional and managerial level. However, he'd like to see more clarification on taxation issues, which are often a pertinent part of the business.

Though bullish about the arrangement, George Leung, chief economist at HSBC, cautioned that the impact of the pact on Hong Kong's economy should not be over-estimated. He said benefits in the short term would surface soon after the pact signed but "we should not expect too many changes in the economy by then.

The limiting of incentive to only Hong Kong companies in the service sector may not achieve the expected growth in scale and diversity that will bring greater benefit to everyone," he said in a TV interview.

Zero tariffs would bring about savings of HK$750 million (US$96.15 million) which is not going to have too great an impact on the economy.

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