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Belt, Road can help HK, says Leung

By Yang Wanli | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-19 07:05

Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's outgoing chief executive, has urged the city to grab the opportunities presented by the Greater Bay Area - part of the national strategy behind the Belt and Road Initiative - and leverage its unique advantages to speed up development over the next decade.

"I'm very optimistic about the future of Hong Kong, in terms of both economy and social development," he said. "China's reform and opening-up and the national strategy to develop the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area are two wings that can help Hong Kong fly high."

The bay area covers 56,500 square kilometers and comprises 11 cities - the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing in Guangdong province.

"As the region has a population of 67.7 million and annual GDP of $1.3 trillion, it will definitely help Hong Kong overcome the bottlenecks of its economic development, including a severe lack of land resources and a shortage of labor," said Raymond Tam, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs.

In April, Leung and other senior Hong Kong government officials paid a three-day visit to construction sites in the Greater Bay Area.

Hong Kong will give full play to its competitive advantages while tapping into the complementary strengths of its partner cities, said Leung, who on July 1 will step down to make way for incoming chief executive Carrie Lam.

With the completion of several giant infrastructure projects, including bridges, highways and bullet trains connecting the city with neighboring regions on the mainland and Macao, he said Hong Kong will see a blueprint to play a crucial role as the "super coordinator" between the mainland and the world.

"Our advantages are obvious and unique under the principle of one country, two systems. Our services, including legal services, enjoy preferential access to the mainland market under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement," he said.

Leung said Hong Kong also is a highly international society, and the international community is familiar with its legal system and the common law.

"In short, our trilingual ability and international network make us an ideal partner in legal services for both the mainland and international companies," he said. "We can help foreign enterprises grow into the mainland market, and partner with mainland firms in expanding into foreign markets, including those along the Belt and Road."

Last year, the SAR's government set up a Belt and Road office to map out strategies and policies, helping local companies and professionals in reaching out. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority's Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office, also set up last year, has helped companies invest in infrastructure projects.

According to Yvonne Y.P. Choi, commissioner for the Belt and Road office, the expansion of trade, investment and infrastructure construction along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will surely lead to a rise in demand for legal services, including for contract negotiations, contract management and dispute resolution.

In fact, footprints of Hong Kong professionals and enterprises can already be found in Belt and Road countries. Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, the secretary for justice, has been promoting Hong Kong's legal and dispute resolution services around the world, visiting such countries as South Korea, Australia, Thailand and Dubai, Leung said.

A $200 million professional services advancement program launched in November also supports Hong Kong professionals in enhancing exchanges and cooperation with counterparts outside the city.

"Some mainland companies are expanding their businesses in the Belt and Road countries. Many are well-known for their infrastructure construction projects, while Hong Kong has unique experience in project and finance management as well as professional services," Leung said.

"In other words, in many of these nascent markets, when we venture out, we are not alone," he said, adding that Hong Kong also has rich experience in cultural and educational exchanges and among localities and NGOs with countries along the region.

"The new regional economic cooperation and integration project initiated by the central government could be the last train for Hong Kong to take to realize the structural economic transformation it desperately needs. I hope we won't miss it," Leung said.

Jiang Chenglong contributed to this story.

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