Bond Connect, AIIB membership a double blessing for financial industry

Updated: 2017-04-12 07:13

By Eddy Li(HK Edition)

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In face of multiple international uncertainties - including noncommittal policies in the United States, the aftermath of Britain's decision to leave the European Union, the reshuffle of political structures after elections in many European countries - Hong Kong is inevitably affected by global economic turmoil as a small, open economy. However, I am now more confident about Hong Kong's economic outlook than I was in the past few years. Less than four months into this year Hong Kong has already been granted two huge blessings that guarantee much more promising economic growth in future: The first is the Bond Connect program which, as suggested by Premier Li Keqiang, would be put into practice on a trial basis this year; the second is that on March 23 the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) approved Hong Kong's application for membership.

Bond Connect, once implemented, will let overseas investors trade in the Chinese mainland bond market through Hong Kong. Hong Kong is the first beneficiary of such an arrangement, which follows the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect programs. As suggested by Li, the Bond Connect program will go a long way in helping Hong Kong maintain its status as an international financial center; it will also give Hong Kong investors more options, contributing to the long-term prosperity and stability of the city. The "One Country, Two Systems" policy has, yet again, benefited Hong Kong economically.

This bond trading link could generate a range of advantages. Firstly it will help Hong Kong develop its relatively weak bond market (when compared with the stock market); it will also benefit the whole financial industry by injecting new impetus. Of course, the scheme will also benefit the mainland side by helping to internationalize the mainland's bond market.

Bond Connect, AIIB membership a double blessing for financial industry

Secondly, with the implementation of the Bond Connect, Hong Kong is very likely to become the most favored market for mainland companies to go public, pushing forward the upgrading and transforming of the local financial industry. This will further facilitate Hong Kong's development as a wealth management center for mainland investors.

Thirdly an internationalized yuan bond market will help expand the use of mainland currency globally, elevating the position of the yuan as a major currency for foreign exchange trading and payment. And Hong Kong, as the biggest offshore yuan business center, will have a bigger role to play. The reform of the international monetary system will also receive a big boost.

Last but not least, Beijing has again shown its support for Hong Kong under the "One Country, Two systems" policy. The accumulated experiences in implementing this policy will help Hong Kong take an active part in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Great Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Being an official member of the AIIB will also place Hong Kong in an advantageous position to better use the abundant opportunities brought by the Belt and Road. AIIB was proposed and established after the Belt and Road Initiative to help Asian countries secure financial support for their infrastructure projects.

Hong Kong is already in an advantageous position in many areas. Apart from becoming the biggest offshore yuan business center, Hong Kong is also experienced in trading Islamic bonds. Indeed, it has become a veteran in dealing with financial products of Islamic countries along the Belt and Road. Hong Kong can give full play to its strong points, including financial, accounting and legal services as well as surveying, construction, engineering, management, etc.

Nevertheless, while AIIB has approved Hong Kong's affiliation, a subscription fee for capital stock still needs to be paid. Hong Kong is planning to subscribe to 7,651 shares, of which 1,530 will be paid-in shares (amounting to HK$1.2 billion, or $154 million, payable over five years) and 6,121 will be callable shares. An early funding approval by the Legislative Council Finance Committee has been requested by the financial secretary and I hope LegCo members can make it happen as soon as possible, so as to enable Hong Kong to embrace the benefits brought by AIIB.

(HK Edition 04/12/2017 page8)