Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu speaks at the Hong Kong-ASEAN Summit 2022 in the city city, Nov 3, 2022. (PHOTO / INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT, HKSAR)

HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s chief executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, on Thursday welcomed ASEAN companies and talented professionals to join the city in building the future “right here in Hong Kong”.

“Hong Kong has a great deal to contribute to RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and to regional economic development in general,” Lee said in his speech at the Hong Kong-ASEAN Summit 2022 in the city.

The special administrative region can add enormous value to RCEP, given its unmatched role as the business bridge between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world, its status as one of the world's leading financial centers, and China's major international financial center, he said.

While ASEAN ranked fifth among Hong Kong's trading partners some 25 years ago, it has been Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner since 2010, he pointed out.

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The ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement and the related Investment Agreement entered into force in February last year, Lee said, adding: “At last count, over 80 ASEAN-headquartered companies were listed in Hong Kong. And there will be fresh opportunities for more to join us in the coming year.”

Hong Kong remains the ASEAN community's critical partner in realizing the far-reaching opportunities offered by the fast-growing GBA and its combined GDP of nearly $2 trillion.

John Lee, Chief Executive, HKSAR

Referring to the extraordinary turbulence and unprecedented chaos the COVID-19 pandemic has created for economies, businesses and communities all over the world, he said the response to the situation has been reassuring. 

This week, the world has returned to Hong Kong for Fintech Week and for the Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit, he said, adding: “…what I can tell you, loud and clear, is that Hong Kong is onstage again. We have our doors open.”

He reiterated that while Hong Kong’s financial system has known daunting times, it has "never buckled, never wavered. Like Hong Kong itself, it remains strong, sure and enviably secure".

It's the "one country, two systems" principle that reinforces Hong Kong’s deepening ties with the motherland and the 10 ASEAN member states, he said. “It's ‘one country, two systems’ that has strengthened – and will continue to strengthen – our connectivity with the mainland, with ASEAN and with the world at large.”

Alluding to President Xi Jinping’s July 1 speech in Hong Kong where he said “one country, two systems” serves the fundamental interests of not only Hong Kong and Macao, but also the whole country, Lee said Hong Kong plays a significant role in the development of the mainland.

“Hong Kong embraces free trade and capitalism, together with the rule of law and the independent judicial power exercised by our judiciary. And, thanks to the Basic Law, we guarantee a free flow of capital, people and information.”

 Experience, location and connectivity with the world, and with the mainland have long made the special administrative region the natural bridge to the mainland, in particular in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, he said. 

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To make those connections work, Lee said, he announced the establishment of a Steering Group on Integration into National Development in his Policy Address on Oct 19. 

As Hong Kong's new international I&T city, the proposed Northern Metropolis will take up an area of about one-third the size of the city and will house about one-third of its current population, he said. “Its connections, and its impact, will reach well beyond the neighboring Shenzhen, radiating deep into Guangdong and contributing to the overall development of the GBA.”

The Guangdong Economic and Trade Office of the SAR government will set up a dedicated promotion center to support Hong Kong people and businesses in the GBA. 

“We also want more Hong Kong enterprises and professionals in the mainland market, especially the nine municipalities of the GBA,” he said, adding that that is beginning to happen, and in sectors such as construction, legal and insurance services.

In 2023, the government will focus on building mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters and enabling the convergence of legal practices between Hong Kong and the rest of the GBA. An online mediation center will be established as well, to encourage interaction between the people and businesses of Hong Kong and other Bay Area cities, he added.

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“Capital flow is also moving well, including the launch, last year, of the Cross-boundary Wealth Management Connect,” he said, also referring to the announcement of issuance of offshore Renminbi bonds in Hong Kong by Hainan Provincial Government and the Shenzhen Municipal Government.

Saying that Hong Kong's innovation and technology industry will play a pivotal role in the Bay Area's rise as a global I&T hub, Lee said the government will publish its I&T Development Blueprint within 2022. 

Led by the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park and the Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Zone, a cross-boundary I&T trial will soon begin, with focus on the flow of I&T material, capital, data and people between the two cities.