Devoting efforts on trade partnership

December 3, 2022

Financial Secretary Paul Chan

At the heart of the Belt & Road Initiative lies the five co-operation priorities that we all know: enhancing policy co-ordination, strengthening infrastructural facilities connectivity, facilitating unimpeded trade, deepening financial integration and building people-to-people bonds.


Hong Kong, with our unique advantages and strengths under the "one country, two systems" policy, has an exceptional role to play to contribute to, and benefit from this great Initiative. Allow me to share a few of my humble thoughts.


Financing of infrastructure

First, Hong Kong's role in supporting infrastructural development for countries along the Belt & Road is bound to expand. Along with their aspiration for faster and greater development as well as higher quality of life, many Belt & Road countries, such as those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, have devised ambitious infrastructure development plans with sustainability goals that will drive the transformation of their economies. According to Global Infrastructure Hub, which is a G20 initiative, there exists an enormous infrastructure funding need globally, estimated at US$94 trillion from 2022 to 2040, with US$51 trillion expected to come from Asia.


Hong Kong is well positioned to meet these needs. We have the people – a rich pool of professional expertise covering not just finance and accounting, but also architecture, design, engineering, construction, risk management, and legal and dispute resolution, and much else. They provide the needed high-quality professional support for infrastructure development.


We also have the capital. And leveraging on our role as a major capital formation centre, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority set up back in 2016 the Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office with the mission to facilitate investments and financing of sustainable infrastructure and green development. We have also adopted a more forthcoming approach to the listing of infrastructure companies and projects on our stock exchange.


And Hong Kong's role is going beyond providing avenues for financing greenfield projects. The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation is working on a pilot infrastructure financing securitisation scheme. With stocking of projects worth US$450 million, the scheme seeks to boost the flow of capital to quality brownfield projects – those projects that are already up and running and generating positive cash flows – thereby recycling the capital already tied up to fund more greenfield cases.


Around the globe, governments have been drawing up action plans to peak greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality, and Belt & Road countries are no exception. We are well poised in financing this green transformation. In 2021, the amount of green and sustainable debt issued in Hong Kong reached a record high, close to US$57 billion, which is four times that of the previous year, and topped in Asia. Deep liquidity aside, the market covered a diversified investor base and project categories. Hong Kong's alignment with high international standards and best practices have instilled trust and confidence in the bonds and debts issued here.


Facilitating trade and deepening financial integration

Second, Hong Kong will continue to stand as a firm supporter of free trade and multilateralism, forging closer trade and financial ties with the Belt & Road countries. At this time of a challenging global economic environment, we should lower trade barriers, reduce tariffs, open up market access so as to boost investment and economic activities, and power growth.


To this end, we have already signed eight free trade agreements covering 20 economies. We are now seeking actively to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Many of RCEP's member countries are located along the Belt & Road, what a perfect complement. Hong Kong's accession to RCEP will enable us to further integrate into the regional industrial value chain, allow our quality professional services to reach them, and reinforce Hong Kong's position as an international trade centre.  


Meanwhile, as trade and investment between Belt & Road countries and the Mainland grows, so does the use of the renminbi (RMB). Here, we will continue to build a vibrant ecosystem of offshore RMB by promoting the launch of more RMB-denominated investment and risk-management products, and upgrading the related market infrastructure to further reinforce our status as the largest offshore RMB business hub.


Our other financial services, like asset management and insurance, are also bound to benefit.


Strengthening people-to-people bonds

Third, encouraging more people-to-people bonding with the Belt & Road countries. The people connections between Hong Kong and countries along the Belt & Road, particularly the maritime Silk Road, for example countries in Southeast Asia, are indeed very strong. It is because of the unique family and business ties established by the people of Hong Kong with their relatives and friends in those areas over decades.


Finally, as Hong Kong emerges as an East-meets-West centre for international cultural exchange, Hong Kong will do more, ranging from education to arts, and sports to music, etc. Our universities are top class. Our museums, restaurants and performing art groups are also world class. Our unique culture of openness, inclusiveness and diversity, are all great attractions to the people.


This endeavor will only gain more momentum in the future, as we seek to create strong impetus for growth and strive to attract talent from all over the world to come and explore the enormous opportunities here in Hong Kong, in the Greater Bay Area and the Mainland. As we see it, South East Asian countries will be a major source of talent coming.


Concluding remarks

Ladies and gentlemen, at the Belt & Road Summit here in Hong Kong in August, Vice Premier Han Zheng reaffirmed Hong Kong's role as a participant, contributor and beneficiary of the Belt & Road. Yes, Hong Kong is committed to our role, and is keen on capitalising on our strengths and advantages to contribute to the common prosperity for people along the Belt & Road, and the world together.


Financial Secretary Paul Chan gave these remarks at an international law conference on "one country, two systems" and the Belt & Road Initiative organised by the Hong Kong Basic Law Education Association on December 3.

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