CE’s vis­its re­in­force HK’s ties to ASEAN Paul Sur­tees dis­cusses mu­tual ben­e­fits aris­ing from boost­ing re­la­tions with South­east Asian coun­tries in­clud­ing in­creased trade and closer cul­tural links

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

For Hong Kong, as a Chi­nese city, the field of in­ter­na­tional diplo­matic re­la­tions is, ac­cord­ing to the Ba­sic Law, the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the cen­tral govern­ment. But there is much that lead­ing of­fi­cials in Hong Kong govern­ment can do them­selves — and are al­ready do­ing — to help boost our trade re­la­tions in­ter­na­tion­ally. In this con­text, it has been well worth­while for the new Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to make her first over­seas vis­its to Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land. Th­ese vis­its, while rather short, were nev­er­the­less pro­duc­tive.

Last year, Hong Kong opened a new Hong Kong Eco­nomic and Trade Of­fice in In­done­sia. Dur­ing the CE’s time in Bangkok, the Thai prime min­is­ter in­vited the SAR govern­ment to open one in Thai­land. This is a wel­come of­fer, which hope­fully will be taken up soon. Seek­ing ways and means to sup­port Hong Kong’s key role as an in­ter­na­tional busi­ness city has nat­u­rally been the main fo­cus of th­ese vis­its. But the cul­tural side has not been ne­glected. Po­ten­tial ad­di­tional col­lab­o­ra­tive trade op­por­tu­ni­ties were widely ex­plored in Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong.

Ad­di­tion­ally, at Sin­ga­pore’s Arts House, the CE opened an ex­hi­bi­tion of pho­to­graphs taken by a Sin­ga­pore pho­tog­ra­pher, show­ing life in Hong Kong in the 1950s. As Lam noted, that was a tran­si­tional pe­riod of many great chal­lenges for the ex­pand­ing Hong Kong pop­u­la­tion of the time — in­clud­ing many poverty-stricken refugees. Th­ese strik­ing im­ages give glimpses of the can-do spirit of Hong Kong peo­ple. This in­ter­est­ing col­lec­tion of 50-year-old pho­to­graphs could be sent on a longer tour to other coun­tries in Asia, and in­deed be­yond. They are very sig­nif­i­cant be­cause they de­pict ear­lier and dif­fi­cult times in Hong Kong’s re­mark­able his­tory.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) bloc rep­re­sents a vi­tally im­por­tant trad­ing part­ner for Hong Kong. Com­ing closely be­hind The writer is a vet­eran com­men­ta­tor on Hong Kong affairs and univer­sity lec­turer. the main­land it­self, ASEAN is Hong Kong’s se­cond-largest trad­ing part­ner. Hong Kong im­ported HK$570 bil­lion in goods from ASEAN coun­tries last year; in­deed, trade with ASEAN rep­re­sented about 11 per­cent of Hong Kong’s trade last year. It is only right that our new CE seeks to fur­ther boost the city’s al­ready long-es­tab­lished and strong trad­ing ties with Thai­land and Sin­ga­pore.

Hong Kong’s well-es­tab­lished role as a busi­ness gate­way into the Chi­nese main­land is still very im­por­tant and ben­e­fi­cial. Over re­cent years, the re-ex­port of goods from Hong Kong to the main­land has been grow­ing at about 5 per­cent per year. We have some 550 en­ter­prises from ASEAN based in Hong Kong, of which more than 50 have their head of­fices in Hong Kong. Many ASEAN goods reach the main­land via Hong Kong.

Amid calls for greater eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Hong Kong and ASEAN mem­ber states, es­pe­cially with Thai­land and Sin­ga­pore, while the CE was there, a solid step in this di­rec­tion was achieved in Bangkok. A let­ter of in­tent, on trade pro­mo­tion and fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion, was signed in Bangkok be­tween Thai­land’s Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Trade Pro­mo­tion and the Hong Kong Trade and Devel­op­ment Coun­cil. Late last month Thai­land hosted a two-day meet­ing of the ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agree­ment (FTA) ne­go­ti­at­ing com­mit­tee in Bangkok. Look­ing ahead, it is ex­pected the FTA be­tween Hong Kong and the ASEAN bloc will be signed later this year.

Thai­land is of­ten seen as a key mem­ber of ASEAN. The im­por­tance of this was re­flected in the pri­or­ity given to ar­rang­ing one of the new CE’s first over­seas vis­its to Bangkok. For Thai­land, Hong Kong is their ninth-big­gest trad­ing part­ner, with about 430 bil­lion Thai baht ($13 bil­lion) in trade re­ported last year. Hong Kong in­vestors brought al­most 9 bil­lion baht into Thai­land last year.

For ASEAN, Hong Kong rep­re­sents their sev­enth-big­gest trad­ing part­ner. The gi­gan­tic scope of such ex­changes speaks for it­self of the im­por­tance of th­ese trad­ing links, with some HK$800 bil­lion of mer­chan­dise trad­ing be­tween ASEAN and Hong Kong dur­ing 2015.

Then there is tourism, which is grow­ing in both di­rec­tions. Some 750,000 Hong Kong res­i­dents (in­clud­ing this writer) vis­ited Thai­land last year; while al­most 600,000 Thais vis­ited the SAR. The many di­rect flights, in­clud­ing by bud­get air­lines, do much to fa­cil­i­tate this traf­fic.

Hong Kong’s fi­nan­cial ser­vices are a by­word for ef­fi­ciency, mak­ing it a global fi­nan­cial cen­ter. It is thought that some ASEAN na­tions may seek to fur­ther en­hance their own ser­vice stan­dards to match.

Th­ese friendly di­rect con­tacts be­tween two of the ASEAN coun­tries and Hong Kong could well rep­re­sent a pro­duc­tive start. Fur­ther CE vis­its to a num­ber of other ASEAN cap­i­tals are surely rec­om­mended in the fu­ture.

Th­ese friendly di­rect con­tacts be­tween two of the ASEAN coun­tries and Hong Kong could well rep­re­sent a pro­duc­tive start. Fur­ther CE vis­its to a num­ber of other ASEAN cap­i­tals are surely rec­om­mended in the fu­ture.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.