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HK accessing opportunities

November 22, 2017

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

There is much to look forward to today, thanks to a timely theme - "Asian Perspectives in a New Global Economy". Indeed, the Asian perspectives are becoming increasingly important. For the past 25 years or so, Asia's economy has grown by around 6% a year and several countries therein have become economic powerhouses. As a result, the world economy, at least in terms of GDP, is shifting east and south at an extraordinary speed, and many Asian enterprises have emerged not only responding to their domestic populous markets, but also entering the competitive global stage. It is widely expected that Asia will continue to be the engine of global economic growth for the foreseeable future.

 

Asia has attracted worldwide attention earlier this month as world leaders gathered in Da Nang, Vietnam, for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting 2017. I represented Hong Kong, China, at the meeting, and had a fruitful discussion with the leaders under the theme of "Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future". The APEC meeting was followed by the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Summit held in the Philippines, and the many formal dialogue and informal exchanges between state leaders had for a while dominated the news domain.

 

APEC members have a diverse profile as it is not an easy task to find consensus among all, but we managed to do it in Vietnam in the form of the Da Nang Declaration of November 11. In the declaration, the leaders expressed the determination to promote sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth, deepen regional economic integration, realise the full potential of the business sector, and enhance food security and sustainable agriculture. The Da Nang Declaration has provided much insight into how we should respond to a new global economy. But it is in the keynote address delivered by President Xi Jinping at the APEC CEO Summit that I find that Asian perspective clear and loud.

 

In a speech entitled "Seizing the Opportunity of a Global Economy in Transition & Accelerating Development of the Asia-Pacific", President Xi said that economic globalisation has contributed to global growth and has become an irreversible trend; we should make it more open and inclusive, more balanced, more equitable and beneficial to all. This is what I intend to share from a Hong Kong perspective - that we should embrace connectivity, inclusiveness and sustainability in the new global economy.

 

As a founder member of the World Trade Organization, Hong Kong is a staunch supporter of free trade. For 23 years in a row, we have been ranked as the world's freest economy by the Heritage Foundation. Free and open economy, well connected to the outside world, is Hong Kong's recipe of success. We have benefited immensely from free trade which is instrumental in developing Hong Kong into an international trade and business centre as it is today. We should continue to enhance connectivity and achieve interconnected development.

 

The two major national initiatives now in front of us - the Belt & Road and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development - present us with numerous opportunities for economic growth. Indeed, as President Xi said, the Belt & Road Initiative is from China, but it belongs to the world. It is rooted in history, but is oriented towards the future. Hong Kong enjoys unique advantages in each of the five areas of connectivity under the Belt & Road Initiative - from financial services and trade practices to infrastructure and people-to-people bonds.

 

However, despite all the benefits free trade and connected development can bring, we do see recently some worrying signs of rising protectionism. Why would this happen? One reason could be that the gains brought by economic globalisation have not been enjoyed by all, giving rise to social discontent, income disparity and a growing sense of disconnect, especially between the government and the people, and particularly young people. It is tempting to blame free trade for such social problems, and protectionism may easily gain popularity, but the fundamental solution lies in making economic development more inclusive and delivering benefits to our people.

 

Inclusive growth is highly relevant in the age of globalisation. APEC leaders have therefore agreed to redouble the efforts to advance economic, financial and social inclusion, with a vision to build an inclusive, accessible, sustainable, healthy and resilient APEC community. An Action Agenda has been endorsed to, among others, advance progress towards achieving full, productive and quality employment, and progressively achieve and sustain income growth for all members of society, especially women, and youth, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and enable them to seize global opportunities.

 

Building an inclusive community is exactly what my Government will do. In this respect, it is relevant to note that almost 60% of the government recurrent budget is spent on education, social welfare and medical services; spending on social welfare and alleviation of poverty has increased by 71% in the past five years with a range of initiatives pioneered by the Commission on Poverty, which I chaired in my capacity as Chief Secretary. In this term of Government, we will continue to enhance the standard of living of all members of the community, so that they can feel the benefits brought by economic growth. In particular, we will continue to inject the needed resources in areas ranging from education and training to social security and medical services, and will lower the profits tax rate for small and medium enterprises. These measures will enable society to better adapt to the changing economic environment.

 

A concern for the natural environment and a commitment to sustainable growth should, in my view, be another important dimension of that Asian perspective. As a responsible global citizen, Hong Kong will actively tackle climate change pursuant to the Paris Summit. We have pledged to reduce carbon emissions, improve water quality and reduce waste.


Hong Kong is able to benefit from connected, inclusive and sustainable growth in the past 20 years under "one country, two systems". We enjoy unique advantages under "one country, two systems". We are an international financial centre and are universally acknowledged as among the best cities in the world for doing business. We have world-class logistics and communications infrastructure and a highly regarded services sector. And it's all underpinned by the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

 

It means that Hong Kong is the best platform for governments and companies along the Belt & Road, and their infrastructure projects, to seek capital. Our bankers, lawyers, arbitrators, accountants, architects, engineers, planners, project managers, insurers and marketing and communications experts are also capable of providing all the services these companies need in their projects.

 

We are further enhancing Hong Kong's attractiveness by establishing more bilateral and multilateral ties with the Mainland and overseas countries. One shining achievement is the free trade agreement signed earlier this month between Hong Kong and the 10 member nations of ASEAN, a key region in advancing the Belt & Road Initiative. Enhanced bilateral trade and investment relations with ASEAN can only mean more prospects for Hong Kong. That certainly includes helping ASEAN countries, and companies, find opportunities along the Belt & Road.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a pertinent saying that "opportunities are reserved for those who have made preparation". In a globalised and highly competitive economy, I would venture to say that it is those who have made preparation (who) will be able to access these opportunities. Despite her past success, Hong Kong will not rest on her laurels. In my maiden Policy Address delivered last month, I have outlined how my Government will play proactive roles, introduce policy measures, make timely investments and promote our strengths in order to seize the many opportunities arising from a new global economy. With that, I am confident that we will (be) able to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth, delivering benefits to all people in Hong Kong.

 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Asia-Global Dialogue 2017 event on November 22.



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