Free Trade Agreement between Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Mr CHAN Chun-ying declared that he was working in a bank with business operations in AMS. Noting that Hong Kong’s trade relations remained relatively alienated with certain AMS such as Myanmar and Indonesia, he enquired whether the Administration would strive for closer trade relations with Myanmar, and for the relaxation of Indonesia’s limitations that top management posts could only be assumed by locals, so that Hong Kong enterprises would be more willing to invest in these countries.
SCED said that due to the different stages of economic development of the ten AMS, some of the countries might open up their markets at a slower pace to protect their local businesses. With the two agreements between Hong Kong and ASEAN, Hong Kong enterprises’ investment in these countries would be subject to local statutory protection as well as protection under the Investment Agreement. After all, the market access treatment applied by the AMS to Hong Kong would not be less favorable than that applied by the AMS to other non-AMS.
Proposed creation of directorate posts in Belt and Road Office
Hierarchical level of BRO
Mr CHAN Chun-ying expressed support for the proposed creation of the directorate posts in BRO. Mr CHAN noted that the future incumbent of the proposed post of CBR would be responsible for entering into strategic dialogues with senior officials and business leaders of Belt and Road countries and co-ordination both within and outside the HKSAR Government. He enquired if the pitching of the post of CBR at Directorate Grade 6 (“D6”) would commensurate with the CBR’s level of duties.
SCED said that the Administration attached great importance to the Belt and Road Initiative which would involve the co-ordination of the whole HKSAR Government. Indeed, CEDB had been tasked by the Chief Executive to be responsible for the overall coordination of the HKSAR Government’s work relating to the Belt and Road Initiative. To ensure that CEDB would be able to take forward the work on the Belt and Road Initiative more effectively and on a sustained basis, BRO had to be provided with additional resources to reinforce its manpower establishment. The pitching of the post of CBR at D6 was considered appropriate, and the future incumbent of the post would be directly responsible to Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Commerce, Industry and Tourism) (“PSCIT”). Having regard to the scope and complexity of the work portfolio, as well as the significance of the Belt and Road Initiative into which high-level input was required, the Administration proposed that the post of CBR be pitched at the level equivalent to a head of department to ensure that the incumbent would possess the necessary experience and leadership to work effectively with the top echelon of the Government to press ahead long-term strategies and initiatives which spanned across different key policy areas within the Government and had direct access to the key decision makers.
Support for professional service sectors
Noting that the expanded remit of work at BRO would include enhancing rapport between the Government and business/professional sectors, Mr CHAN Chun-ying enquired about the Administration’s blueprint and timetable for assisting the financial services sector to tap the Belt and Road markets in respect of participating in financing the infrastructural projects and providing risk management services.
SCED responded that the Arrangement between the NDRC and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for Advancing Hong Kong’s Full Participation in and Contribution to the Belt and Road Initiative (“the Arrangement”) was signed by the Chief Executive with the Chairman of NDRC in Beijing on 14 December 2017. The Arrangement served as a blueprint for Hong Kong’s further participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Arrangement encompassed specific measures focusing on six key areas, including finance and investment. In this area, the Arrangement sought to assist the industry in the following aspects: (i) facilitating co-operation of key stakeholders by enhancing Hong Kong’s position as the platform for the Belt and Road financing as well as providing a diversity of financing channels; (ii) supporting the Hong Kong Monetary Authority Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office to continue to play its role in facilitating the investment and financing of infrastructure projects by working with a cluster of key stakeholders; (iii) developing a green bond market; (iv) leveraging Hong Kong’s status as the global offshore Renminbi (“RMB”) business hub to support RMB internationalization; (v) supporting financial institutions (including investment institutions and multilateral development banks) participating in the Belt and Road Initiative; and (vi) encouraging Hong Kong and Mainland enterprises and financial institutions to jointly participate in and contribute to Belt and Road projects and to co-operate with relevant local authorities, enterprises and financial institutions whereat the projects took place.