Developing Hong Kong into a regional professional services hub
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
Deputy President, the professional services industry is a pillar industry in Hong Kong enjoying competitive edge. I am thankful for and supportive of the motion and the amendment proposed by Ir Dr LO Wai-kwok and Mr Tony TSE respectively. This has given this Council an opportunity of debate to urge the Government to take into account the needs of the times and capitalize on Hong Kong’s unique advantages presented by “one country, two systems” and also by its international experience and networks, so as to formulate support policies and measures for dovetailing with the keen demand for professional services arising from the construction of Belt and Road and the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (“the Greater Bay Area”), with a view to developing Hong Kong into a regional professional services centre and seeking more development opportunities for various types of professionals and also small, medium and large enterprises in Hong Kong.
The socio-economic development of Hong Kong these days is always closely connected to the development and needs of the Mainland. The evolution of the country’s overall development setting has catalysed a new setting in Hong Kong’s economy. The Mainland/Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (“CEPA”) is a free trade agreement signed between the Mainland and Hong Kong in 2003. Adopting a building block approach, CEPA has continued to expand in content and scope over the years.
Actually, the Agreement Concerning Amendment to the CEPA Agreement signed on 21 November 2019 has further lowered the market access thresholds and provided for more facilitating measures for Hong Kong enterprises and professional sectors to tap into the Mainland market. Eligible Hong Kong professionals such as architects, structural engineers, lawyers and doctors, might acquire the corresponding Mainland’s professional qualifications through mutual recognition or examinations. Besides, if such architects or structural engineers are engaged or employed by relevant enterprises in the Mainland, they are allowed to register for practice in designated provinces and cities and establish architectural design, structural engineering or other related firms or operate those firms in the form of partnership or association with their Mainland partners. Law firms in the form of association with Mainland partners can provide one-stop cross-border legal services, and share operating costs and profits with their Mainland partners. Following the official implementation of the Amendment Agreement on 1 June last year, I hope the Government can gradually expand its coverage of professionals.
The Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address states: “We will further consolidate Hong Kong’s position as the prime platform and a key link for the B&R Initiative, and strengthen the co-operation with B&R related countries and regions so as to open up a larger market for various sectors. The HKSAR Government is seeking to organise jointly a high-level roundtable with the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council to explore enhancements of modern corporate governance and to strengthen R&D application by leveraging the international experience and professional strengths of Hong Kong, thereby enhancing the competitiveness to ‘go global’ through mutual collaboration. We will also launch a Mainland Enterprises Partnership Exchange and Interface Programme in the coming year to facilitate exchanges and networking that foster co-operation between Hong Kong’s professional services sector and Mainland enterprises, strengthen the capacity building of both sides, and enhance the international outlook, market orientation and professional standards of various projects.”
Deputy President, at the grand gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, State President XI Jinping mentioned in his speech the requirement of “taking active moves to further promote the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area”. He said to this effect: “The construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is a major development strategy of the country, and Shenzhen is an important engine driving its construction. It is necessary to seize this major historical opportunity presented by the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and to promote the connection of rules and also interface between mechanisms for economic operation in the three places …” Earlier on, the National People’s Congress passed a resolution to adopt the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 (“the 14th Five-Year Plan”). The 14th Five-Year Plan proposes a new paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other.
Therefore, in order to develop Hong Kong into a regional professional services centre, the SAR Government must keep pace with the times and seek to promote and enrich the interaction and interface between the Mainland market and the international market and also the interface between the country’s standards and international standards, while fully capitalizing on our advantages presented by “one country, two systems” and focusing on business opportunities in the Mainland market with the Greater Bay Area as the entry point, in a bid to actively turn Hong Kong into a participant in the domestic cycle and a facilitator of the international cycle.
Deputy President, I so submit.