HK to deepen ASEAN ties with trade deal
Hong Kong will deepen ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as details of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two are “soon to be concluded”, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Wednesday during the first day of her visit to Singapore.
The four-day trip — to Singapore and Thailand — is Lam’s first overseas visit after assuming office as CE.
Lam expressed her gratitude to both countries for efforts in promoting Hong Kong-ASEAN ties. She said she chose Singa- pore and Thailand as they are both very important ASEAN members and also Hong Kong’s largest and second-largest trade partners among ASEAN countries.
The FTA is expected to be concluded before the end of this year, according to Lam.
According to official statistics, ASEAN is Hong Kong’s second-largest goods trade partner, following the Chinese mainland.
The FTA will bring mutual benefits to all businesses and professionals in the 10 ASEAN countries as well as in Hong Kong, particularly against the backdrop of the Belt and Road Initiative and development of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, she added.
In the demanding and globalized business environment, if Hong Kong wants to stay competitive the city has to be more proactive, Lam said.
“I have advocated that the government will adopt new roles, in addition to just being a provider of public services and regulator, I want my government to also be a facilitator and promoter,” Lam stressed.
That will require enormous work, including promoting government-to-government relationships, just like such visits and FTA deals with respective economies, she explained.
Hong Kong is also ready to adopt a more proactive fiscal policy, investing more in education, overseas promotions and providing more tax incentives, Lam stressed.
Hong Kong needs to provide businesses with more incentives to invest in research and development, she said.
Lam landed in Singapore on Wednesday afternoon. After paying a courtesy visit to the Chinese embassy in Singapore, she attended the opening ceremony of a photo exhibition.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuetngor on Wednesday left for Singapore on a three-day journey that also includes a stop in Thailand — the first overseas trip in her capacity as head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and its government since taking office on July 1. This is a very important trip for Hong Kong as both Singapore and Thailand are long-time trading partners and influential members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that happen to hold key strategic locations on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, part of the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative.
Hong Kong, in addition to its own close economic and trade links to ASEAN member states, has played a significant role for many years in facilitating and serving economic and trade ties between ASEAN nations and the Chinese mainland. With the promising progress of the B&R Initiative continuing to attract countries and regions elsewhere around the world Hong Kong stands to profit from numerous opportunities to offer professional services as well as investment to any and every market along the rejuvenated ancient trading route known as the Maritime Silk Road, which went from the mainland port cities of Quanzhou and Guangzhou to Africa for centuries.
In the 21st century the ancient maritime trading route will be even more productive thanks to the B&R Initiative, which will extend it further to the Arabian Peninsula and Mediterranean coasts and even Nordic countries. For Hong Kong there probably is no better time to “reinvent” itself, by taking full advantage of the epic initiative and speeding up the structural transformation of its economy. This includes a high-tech industry and knowledge-driven modern services sector.
We are pleased to note that Lam will visit GovTech Hive, an innovation lab for digital services, as well as the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Civil Service College after a meeting with senior government officials of the host country. She will then meet senior Thai government officials and business leaders, and those from other ASEAN countries. She will also discuss collaboration opportunities with creative industries. All these discussions will no doubt pave the way for more exchanges and cooperation between Hong Kong and ASEAN nations.
Hong Kong is already a founding member of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is widely considered the main locomotive of the B&R Initiative. Hong Kong is well-positioned and equipped to lend its rich experience and expertise in international finance. This includes legal counsel and arbitration services for infrastructure development projects designed to facilitate the B&R-powered global recovery and all-round development that may very well bring about a renaissance on an international scale. Better trade ties with ASEAN countries will give Hong Kong another advantage to wield on its unmatched role in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area city cluster.