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Hong Kong has crucial role in Belt and Road

By JING SHUIYU in Beijing and WILLA WU in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-05 09:13

Financial services powerhouse seen as helping broker more business

Hong Kong, with its core advantages in financial and professional services, will play a crucial part in further boosting the Belt and Road Initiative, officials and experts have said.

One of the major roles is to fill the gap between financing and project aspirations related to the initiative.

Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said on Saturday that the top legislature has urged Hong Kong to make an active contribution to the national development strategy.

Hong Kong should give full play to its advantages in the process, build a diverse cooperation platform and promote cultural exchanges, Zhang said.

He made the comments at the Seminar on Strategies and Opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative, which was themed "Leveraging Hong Kong's Advantages, Meeting the Country's Needs".

The event, organized by the Belt and Road General Chamber of Commerce, gathered a host of officials and business leaders from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong to discuss and seek fresh opportunities brought by the initiative.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said Hong Kong, under the principle of "one country, two systems", will assume an important role in areas such as finance and investment, infrastructure and shipping as well as economic and trade cooperation and promotion.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa based on ancient land and maritime trade routes.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-Yee, a lawmaker and member of the Hong Kong Executive Council, agreed with Zhang's remarks.

Ip, who also co-chairs the Hong Kong-based Maritime Silk Road Society, noted that mutual benefits for both the mainland and Hong Kong would be realized as the SAR integrates its development with the country's.

Eddy Li Sau-Heng, president of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Association, said the meeting, as well as influential participants who attended the event, demonstrated that Hong Kong has a key role to play in the development of the initiative.

Li added that the Hong Kong business sector is confident about the transcontinental plan as it is a national-level development project that Hong Kong is closely involved in.

Hong Kong enjoys a strategic position within the Belt and Road Initiative because it helps the mainland attract technology and investment from overseas, and serves as a springboard for mainland enterprises to go global, said Norman Chan Tak-lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

He added that Hong Kong would offer more one-stop services in financing and risk management along with the development of the initiative.

Data show Belt and Road projects may face funding shortages. The Asian Development Bank estimated that some of its members, mostly Belt and Road-related economies, would need $22.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2030, or $1.5 trillion annually. But no single source of funding could supply that much investment.

"Hong Kong's capability in allocating global financial resources could help reduce the bottleneck of financing for these projects", said Chen Siqing, Bank of China president, in a panel discussion.

He cited Hong Kong's syndicated loan market, which exceeded $116.3 billion in 2017, the strongest in the Asia-Pacific region.

Hong Kong would be dedicated to building itself into a preferred platform of initial public offering for Belt and Road economies, said James Lau, Hong Kong's secretary for financial services and the treasury.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is willing to enhance cooperation with Hong Kong entities to promote the initiative, thus contributing to economic expansion in Asia as well as the global economy, said the bank's president, Jin Liqun.

"Hong Kong, as one of the major international financial centers, has advantages in a wide range of areas including investment, risk assessment, finance, insurance, accounting, legal services and arbitration," he said.

Trade between the Chinese mainland and Belt and Road economies reached 7.4 trillion yuan ($1.17 trillion) in 2017, up by 17.8 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

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