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HK's Lee promotes ties in Mideast visit

By SHADOW LI and OASIS HU | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-02-08 08:55

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee (left) meets the president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser (center), at the LEAP 2023 technology conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. CHINA DAILY

John Lee Ka-chiu, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and an HKSAR government and business delegation began their visit to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, after pushing ties with Saudi Arabia to a new level of collaboration.

Accomplishments during the visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday and Monday included Hong Kong's negotiations with Saudi Arabia on investment protection and promotion pacts, agreement on six deals between Hong Kong and Saudi Arabian enterprises, and promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Lee met with local leaders, visited enterprises and attended international forums and large-scale exchange activities to introduce Hong Kong's developments, opportunities and unique advantages.

He led a delegation of senior HKSAR government officials and 30 high-level representatives from various sectors on a visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance connections between Hong Kong and the two countries and to bring vast business opportunities for the city. It is Lee's first overseas trip this year.

On Tuesday, Lee met with local political and business leaders and visited enterprises in Abu Dhabi. He is to attend an investment forum in Dubai on Wednesday and visit the HKSAR's Economic and Trade Office in Dubai on Thursday. The trip is expected to end on Saturday.

After arriving in the Middle East, Lee said that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were picked for his first overseas trip because of those countries' visions and blueprints in finance, innovation and technology, as well as infrastructure and logistics.

Lee also said that President Xi Jinping's visit to Saudi Arabia in December established a good foundation for the Hong Kong delegation's tour to promote the city and deepen Middle Eastern countries' understanding of Hong Kong.

On Sunday, while attending the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-Hong Kong Investment Forum in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, Lee announced that Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia will launch formal negotiations on an investment promotion and protection agreement after productive exploratory discussions between the two sides.

The negotiations will send "a positive signal" to both places' business communities, help fortify investors' confidence and expand bilateral investment flows, Lee said.

Also during the forum, Lee and Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi minister of investment, witnessed the signing of six memorandums of understanding or letters of intent between Hong Kong and Saudi Arabian enterprises or organizations covering such areas as finance, innovative technology, transportation and energy.

Among them was a memorandum of understanding signed by Nesma Holding, one of Saudi Arabia's largest private conglomerates, and Hong Kong's leading homegrown asset management company, Templewater Ltd, along with its two subsidiaries, Bravo Transport and Wisdom Motor.

Templewater and Nesma will work together to transform commercial fleets in the Middle East and North Africa through the use of zero-emission vehicles, Cliff Zhang, chairman and CEO of Templewater, told China Daily.

The memorandum of understanding is a "key milestone for Bravo and Wisdom", showcasing what the Hong Kong chief executive mentioned about the city being well positioned to contribute to Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, and it highlights the mutual benefits that collaboration between the two sides can bring, Zhang said.

About 300 representatives of local authorities and business leaders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Hong Kong SAR gathered on Sunday at the forum to explore prospects for collaboration in trade, finance, technology and art and culture.

While addressing the forum, Lee said that Hong Kong has much to offer in trade and investment as well as in the financial and professional services sectors and infrastructure development. The bilateral trade in goods between the HKSAR and members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf reached $1.7 billion in 2021, he said.

Lee also pointed out that Hong Kong had already been involved in many projects in Saudi Arabia. Three of the six lines of the Riyadh Metro rapid transit system, to be opened to passengers later this year, were designed by the Hong Kong branch of the international consultancy Atkins.

Later this year, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority will lead a high-level financial delegation to the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, to explore further cooperation, Lee revealed.

Also on Monday, Lee attended the LEAP 2023 technology conference, one of the biggest such conferences held in the Middle East and North Africa region. He noted the HKSAR government's efforts in building up the city's advantages in the area and invited global technology enterprises to establish or expand their businesses in Hong Kong.

Timeline for visit by John Lee Ka-chiu


・ Began visit to Saudi Arabia

・ Met with Khalid Al-Falih, minister of investment of Saudi Arabia, and Turqi A. Al-Nowaiser, deputy governor of the Public Investment Fund

・ Visited the exhibition THE LINE Experience to learn about the innovative design of the NEOM smart city project

・ Attended the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-Hong Kong Investment Forum

・ Witnessed the exchange of six pacts between Hong Kong and Saudi Arabian enterprises


・ Met with Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, secretary-general of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf

・ Attended the LEAP 2023 technology conference, at which he met with Amin H. Nasser, the president and CEO of state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco

・ Met with Abdullah Alswaha, minister of communications and information technology of Saudi Arabia, and Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment


・ Began a visit to the United Arab Emirates and met with local political and business leaders and visited local enterprises


・ Will attend an investment forum in Dubai and deliver a speech


・ Will visit the HKSAR's Economic and Trade Office in Dubai


・ Will return to Hong Kong

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