HK, mainland to sign fresh B&R agreement

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor addresses the opening ceremony of Belt and Road Summit at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on Monday. [Photo: China Daily]

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Monday announced that the government will sign a new cooperation agreement with the Chinese mainland to give full play to the city's unique advantages under the "one country, two systems" principle in support of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Lam noted the new agreement would cover key areas including finance, capital raising, infrastructure facilities, trade and investment facilitation and dispute resolution as well as forging people-to-people bonds.

She described the new agreement as another milestone after the mainland and Hong Kong signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement in 2003.

Lam said both sides were in "earnest" discussion on details of the cooperation framework and agreed to sign it at the earliest opportunity.

She made the announcement while giving a keynote speech at the opening of the Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong on Monday. Lam added that she was confident Hong Kong enterprises and talents could fully engage in the initiative and reap many benefits through the new agreement.

Lam also discussed other actions Hong Kong has taken to turn the initiative into reality. One of them is that the government would take additional roles as a facilitator and a promoter and adopt fiscal policies involving wise investment and competitive tax policy to support the Belt and Road.

Another effort the HKSAR Government has made is the successful conclusion of the negotiations for the Hong Kong-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Agreement, Lam said.

The agreement would be signed in November, Lam said. She said Hong Kong's cooperation with ASEAN would be further expanded as the 10 member countries not only enjoy a strategic position for the Belt and Road but also have the potential to be regional and global economic drivers.

Looking ahead, Lam said Hong Kong would find enormous opportunities in being a window to attract investment to Belt and Road countries and regions. She cited the recent report of the Asian Development Bank, which estimated the annual infrastructure investment requirement in Asia between last year and 2030 would be about $1.7 trillion - double the current level in the region.

Besides, Hong Kong would also take a pivotal role in facilitating the Belt and Road as it excels in a variety of professional services. These include investment and risk assessment, research, financing, insurance, accounting, legal services and arbitration - which are essential to the initiative.

Ning Jizhe, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the commission would give its firm support to Hong Kong to capitalize on the Initiative. He noted that the support would include providing policy assistance, supporting facilities and convenience for mutual cooperation.

Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Yan and Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Xie Feng, who also spoke at the opening ceremony, voiced support to Hong Kong's vital role in Belt and Road.

The Belt and Road Summit, a full-day event organized by the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council, was divided into several panel discussions with different topics covering government policies, infrastructure financing, dispute resolution and opportunities given to young entrepreneurs. The inaugural event was in May last year, during which the Chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee Zhang Dejiang urged Hong Kong to grasp the opportunities presented by Belt and Road in a timely manner.

In Monday afternoon's panel discussion, themed "Using Hong Kong as a platform for infrastructure dispute resolution", legal veterans welcomed the judicial independence in the SAR, which they held as a merit favoring Hong Kong as the dispute resolution center.

Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, chairman of Asian Academy of International Law, said the reputation and integrity of judicial independence in Hong Kong has won international recognition and is firmly backed by evidence; she was convinced that it will remain strong in the city.

She noted the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report gave Hong Kong 6.4 out of 7 in the field of judicial independence in the past two years.

This year's summit attracted more than 2,600 participants from about 50 countries and regions, including government leaders, policymakers, project owners and investors from home and around.

Editor: zhangjunmian