The Asian Financial Forum opens at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Jan 11, 2023. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

Coinciding with the resumption of quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland following three years of restrictions, the success of the 16th Asia Financial Forum marked a promising start to Hong Kong’s financial development in 2023, Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s Deputy Executive Director Patrick Lau Hui-ping said.

“As the first major international event of the year, AFF brought together thousands of global business leaders, financial and wealth management experts, entrepreneurs, technology giants and economists, far exceeding our expectations,” Lau said.

“It’s clear that everyone knows where the real financial opportunities are.”

Organized by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and the HKTDC, the AFF kicked off on Wednesday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The two-day event was held in physical format with digital extension.

Following two years of being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first time that the forum had returned to physical format.

The forum attracted more than 1,000 participants on the first day, including more than 100 global leaders and officials invited as speakers.

“We are delighted to see the tremendous interest from financial and business leaders from around the world in joining the forum and enthusiastically participating in the discussions and activities,” Lau said.

“The first day of the forum was a great success. It fully demonstrated the vitality of Hong Kong’s financial industry and reflected the potential of Hong Kong as an international financial center.”

This year, more than 40 panel discussions and workshops were held to explore major global issues, such as environmental, social and governance, sustainable development, inclusive capital markets and family office challenges.

The forum also featured investment project matching sessions to connect global investors and project owners in order to facilitate more concrete business cooperation.

“The AFF has built an exchange platform full of opportunities for all the participants to have closer interaction and create more business opportunities, through which international participants are able to match more business partners in the Hong Kong ecosystem,” Lau said. “It once again showcased Hong Kong as a vibrant international financial and business hub.”

Outside the two-way forum, a variety of exclusive travel, food and hotel discounts for overseas delegates were provided by the HKTDC, to enrich their stay in Hong Kong.

Regarding the resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland from Sunday, Lau expects to see more Hong Kong companies entering the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area market to deploy their business in the future.

Following the resumption of the normal cross-boundary travel, more initiatives or activities will be introduced this year to help local companies expand in the mainland market, especially in the Greater Bay Area, he said.

“Especially as this year coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, we expect to see closer ties between the two sides.”

“The HKTDC will actively promote business cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland, and leverage the city’s international advantages to serve the country and help mainland enterprises go global.”