Leaders Explore RCEP Opportunities for Hong Kong and the GBA at 2021 Greater Bay Area Conference

Leaders Explore RCEP Opportunities for Hong Kong and the GBA at 2021 Greater Bay Area Conference

For Immediate Release

Leaders Explore RCEP Opportunities for Hong Kong and the GBA at 2021 Greater Bay Area Conference

HONG KONG, Nov. 30, 2021 — Co-organized by China Daily and the Hong Kong Coalition, the Greater Bay Area Conference was held on Tuesday. The Honorable Mr. C.Y. Leung, GBM, GBS, JP, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, and Mr. Liu Guangyuan, commissioner, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the Hong Kong SAR, delivered keynote addresses, which were followed by three panel discussions.

The "Greater Bay Area Conference 2021" was held in Hong Kong on Tuesday. The Honorable Mr. C.Y. Leung, GBM, GBS, JP, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, and Mr. Liu Guangyuan, commissioner, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the Hong Kong SAR, participated in the event.

Under the theme “Embracing New Opportunities: Connecting GBA with RCEP”, the conference explored RCEP business opportunities for Hong Kong and the GBA in the long run and examined the current economic landscape. The conference brought together C-level senior executives from Fortune Global 500 and China 500 companies, think tanks, academics, media and experts from public and private sectors across Asia.

In the keynote addresses, CY Leung indicated that Hong Kong is the super-connector of the world. “We are one of the largest global trade hubs for both goods and services. Now we have a new boost. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is the largest free trade agreement ever forged. As we speak, barriers between Hong Kong and the other cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) are being lowered, one after another,” he said.

“Therefore, the significance of the RCEP to Hong Kong lies not so much in Hong Kong itself being a producer or a consumer — we are too small at that — but in our close relationships with the mainland of China and a huge producer, assembler and ultimate consumer.” The words that he would borrow today were “more proactively”. Opportunities for Hong Kong to connect the GBA to the RCEP will remain no more than opportunities unless and until we turn them into realities — realities of economic and social progress, he said.

Mr. Liu Guangyuan mentioned that the achievements in the GBA have fully demonstrated China’s determination to open wider to the world displayed advantages of the “one country, two systems” policy, and drawn a new blueprint of sharing opportunities together with the international community. Under the RCEP, the GBA faces both new opportunities and challenges. Three key words, namely, “development”, “connectivity” and “innovation”, need to be focused on, he said.

He said, “Thanks to the National Security Law and the improved electoral system, Hong Kong has transformed from chaos to stability and prosperity, and has a big role to play in the GBA and China’s new round of opening-up. The positioning of Hong Kong in the 14th Five-Year Plan as an international financial, shipping and trading center and the global offshore RMB business hub will further strengthen Hong Kong’s role as a ‘super-connector’, and boost the development of Hong Kong and the GBA.”

In the welcoming remarks, Mr. Zhou Shuchun, a Standing Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee and China Daily publisher and editor-in-chief, perceived that the RCEP is a win-win proposition. “It is a coming together of economies big and small, developed and developing. While the enhanced inflow of investment helps developing member states to raise the standard of production and income levels, and thus move up the value chain, developed economies can cut down on overhead by setting up manufacturing bases in the ASEAN states while also catering to those markets. The idea ties in with President Xi’s notion of common prosperity — informed by the democratic philosophy that sharing of wealth and resources can only benefit everyone concerned in the long run,” he said.

He said that such fraternal vibes make us optimistic about the future of China’s relationships with her trading partners in the Asia-Pacific. He hopes after we have listened to our eminent speakers and panelists at today’s conference, all of us will have a more nuanced idea about how the cities in China’s Greater Bay Area can tap into the supply chain and demand in a wide diversity of markets through the RCEP framework, and lead the way in creating, to quote President Xi once again, a “unified, open, competitive and orderly market system”.

Mrs. Eva Cheng, deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Coalition, pointed out that the GBA is China’s most powerful economic growth engine, and the RCEP is the world’s single largest free trade agreement. And the theme is about connecting the two. It is about integrating “the largest” with “the most powerful”. She said: “Integration is a key word. And talking about integration, the RCEP has fostered regional market integration among 15 of Asia’s biggest economies and markets. The GBA has also fostered integration among 11 key cities that collectively form the most vibrant bay area in South China. Now, we are glad to see that for the first time in history, China’s National 14th Five-Year Plan mentioned ‘integrated development’ with Hong Kong in its text. That’s certainly going to open another new chapter in the story of Hong Kong.”

She said “Now is the time for humanity to work closer together than ever before. The threat of deglobalization is real, and the forces of decoupling brought about by geopolitics is haunting. Now is the time to connect, to harmonize, to integrate, to fight COVID-19, to fight climate change, to grow and prosper together and be strong.”

According to the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), adopted in March 2021, the “dual circulation development paradigm” allows the domestic and overseas markets to reinforce each other, with the domestic market as the mainstay. How can Hong Kong, as the international business hub for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, leverage its composite advantages to connect the RCEP with the GBA, and to further boost economic growth and recovery? Under the theme of “Embracing New Opportunities: Connecting GBA to RCEP”, the conference gathered thought leaders from across the region to discuss and provide updates on the latest developments of various sectors as well as new opportunities for Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.

Hong Kong has expressed a strong interest in joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, which is the first free trade agreement between China and 14 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. With 30 percent of global GDP and 30 percent of the world’s population, the RCEP will not only benefit Hong Kong’s enterprises to expand their markets in this sizeable market, but also act as a bridge to provide new cooperation potential and to connect it with the Greater Bay Area.

The first panel discussion, titled “How can Hong Kong benefit from the RCEP and turn it into a boon for the GBA?”, was chaired by Professor Edward Chen, chairman of HKU SPACE (School of Professional and Continuing Education). Five heavyweight speakers, including Dr. Jonathan Choi, chairman, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area Entrepreneurs Union; Dr. Victor Fung, group chairman, Fung Group; Professor Witman Hung, principal liaison officer for Hong Kong, Shenzhen Qianhai Authority; Dr. George Lam, chairman, Hong Kong Cyberport; and Mr. David Liao, co-chief executive, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp Ltd, examined how the RCEP benefits Hong Kong and the GBA in the long run, and how to encourage collaboration in the regions.

Dr. Jonathan Choi said that Hong Kong is at the very center of the RCEP, acting as a promoter and a facilitator. “As a businessman, I perceived Hong Kong as a ‘CIO’, connector, investor and operator. We are a super-connector on business and investment. At the same time, we are investors as the intentional financial center. We also operate many factories in the Greater Bay Area for the past 40 years. We operate an airport, seaport, and other public facilities.”

Dr. Victor Fung pointed out that the GBA with the RCEP is the creation of perhaps the next generation of global trade. He said it is the new World Trade Organization. It has the real opportunity of expanding globally to encompass a new multilateral system. Hong Kong has traditionally played a critical role in the old WTO. “We stand for the rule of law in international trade. Although we have been small, we have been significant. I would think that Hong Kong will see a similar role in this new development in the innovation of the GBA with the RCEP”, he said.

Professor Witman Hung said that Hong Kong is a talent and education hub for the RCEP, with five universities being in the world’s top-ranking universities. This advantage allows Hong Kong to attract talents from the RCEP and as well as the inflow of talents and scholars. The RCEP can also help Hong Kong’s new industrialization. He said he thinks the GBA and Hong Kong form an integrated environment where startups do research in Hong Kong, prototype in Shenzhen, and come back to Hong Kong for cooperate venture investment.

Dr. George Lam indicated that we are moving decisively in the direction of becoming an innovation and technology hub for the region. The new economy is doing very well. He can see this digital North-South highway and Hong Kong is right there. “So we can help a lot. For example, Cyberport, Hong Kong’s global digital technology hub, got over 70 startups providing innovative solutions to help fighting the pandemic. It's already called the new export. We are sharing best practices and ideas and solutions with many countries in the region. That's one example of what Hong Kong can help,” he said.

Mr. David Liao perceived that RCEP is a region of new language that drives community and coalition. For Hong Kong, the common language will allow growth and activities that allow a basis to drive other important issues like an ESG system. “Hong Kong is a natural taker in terms of benefiting from connectivity. It’s a great gateway for the Chinese mainland to come out to the world, a phenomenal platform and legal infrastructure (provider) for international finance,” he said.

“Hong Kong aims to develop itself into a hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world. A city with a rich history and cultural elements of East-meets-West, Hong Kong gathers artists and cultural organizations from across the globe and attracts tourists to the city as well as to the other GBA cities. Hong Kong’s cultural and heritage tourism will be the key to connecting the 11 cities of the cluster.”

Professor Haiyan Song, associate dean and chair professor of tourism, Mr. and Mrs. Chan Chak Fu Professor in International Tourism, School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, chaired the second panel discussion, themed “Unlocking Tourism Collaborations through Cultural Sustainability and Heritage Development in the GBA”. The session brought together six prominent speakers from tourism and creative sectors: Dr. Adrian Cheng, CEO, New World Development Co Ltd; Mr. Eric Fok, vice-president, Fok Ying Tung Group; Dr. Wangxi Han, director, Shenzhen Innovative and Creative Design Development Office; Ms. Pansy Ho, group executive chairman and managing director, Shun Tak Holdings Ltd; Dr. Louis Ng, director, Hong Kong Palace Museum; and Dr. Y.K. Pang, chairman, the Hong Kong Tourism Board. They had in-depth discussions about how cultural and heritage tourism can boost the economy, how the creativity and tourism sectors can work together for further growth of the industries, and whether cultural and heritage tourism will be the next key pillar for GBA collaboration.

Dr. Adrian Cheng said that Hong Kong as well as the whole GBA are destined to become a flourishing hub for culture and heritage. “While Gen Z and millennials are keen to embrace the latest digital trends, innovation, they're more and more developing a nostalgic appreciation of the past and the ancient treasure of its history. They're increasingly passionate about learning more about the roots, their culture, and their identity. They traveled widely to visit historical sites and were inspired by finding graphic artifacts of the past. At this critical moment, we are fortunate to be embarking on a new era that parallels that renaissance in what we might call a living heritage economy,” he said.

Dr. Y.K. Pang said that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken many aspects of our daily lives, but the foundations of what we have built and achieved through the decades remain sold and unbroken. “Hong Kong remains one of the world’s most vibrant and attractive destinations. The only major difference as we emerge from the pandemic is that we have much more, not less, to offer to global visitors when they return. The emergence of the Greater Bay Area has broadened and brightened our horizons and provided us with the opportunities to showcase to the world the richness not only of Hong Kong, but also of a dynamic new region full of diversity, life, history and heritage,” Pang said.

Ms. Pansy Ho indicated that as we emerge from the crisis, it is important to look at new opportunities not as competitors separated by borders, but as counterparts of the Greater Bay Area among its 11 cities, and to work together to formulate tourism strategies that highlight our strengths, our unique advantages and to fully portray Lingnan culture. She said Hong Kong is in an advantageous leadership position to put these opportunities into motion, and she personally looks forward to working together to build an even more vibrant tourism package and landscape for our future.

Dr. Louis Ng said the 14th Five-Year Plan sets out a strong vision to develop the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area into a world-class tourism destination with integrated cultural and tourism industries. “The cities in the Greater Bay Area should integrate resources, markets and brand collisions to enhance cooperation. They should also leverage on the GBA's cultural resources to develop more-diversified and high value-added products to promote cultural and tourism development,” he said.

Mr. Eric Fok said, “I believe sports can play a big role in this area and also promote tourism under the theme of culture. In Hong Kong, we are going to be playing a bigger role as the central government also gave us a big task in this. With the increase of cultural confidence through sports and friendship, we are able to integrate ourselves and contribute toward the economic growth of the Greater Bay Area.”

Dr. Wangxi Han mentioned that the continuity of cultural memory and cultural lineage is a major issue for the ages. The creative transformation and innovative development of traditional culture is a major issue in theory and practice. The revitalization of the Nantou (historic town) is not only to re-create the glory of “the first county in eastern Guangdong and the source of Hong Kong and Macao”, but also to integrate the culture of the Greater Bay Area and create a “cultural landmark of the Bay Area”, which requires careful consideration in terms of the revitalization of history and culture, the enhancement of urban vitality and the implantation of multiple cultures.

The last session, an industries dialogue themed “Hong Kong: The International Business Hub for GBA”, was chaired by Dr. Edward Tse, founder and CEO of Gao Feng Advisory Co. Four business leaders who have invested in businesses in different GBA cities provided valuable tips for those interested in exploring opportunities in the region. They were Dr. Kevin Lau, founding director, Trinity Medical Centre; Dr. Patrick Lau, deputy executive director, Hong Kong Trade Development Council; Mr. Clarence Ling, director, Kwai Hung Group and founder; and Mr. William Shum, founder and CEO, Memorigin Watch Co Ltd.

Dr. Kevin Lau Chung-hang said that there are huge opportunities for the medical industry from the RCEP and GBA areas, especially in eldercare and treatment of common chronic diseases, because of the rapid growth and aging population within the regions, which has led to a huge demand for healthcare services. The advantageous policies in four areas from the government could lead the prosperous growth of economic development in the GBA region — infrastructure interoperability, financial interconnection, science and innovation; as well as urban strategy.

Mr. William Shum indicated that Hong Kong is an international city. “It’s a good window to face the global market with the merging of Eastern and Western design. By the merging of East and West, we can convince the customers and develop in GBA cities in a very fast and efficient way,” he said.
“Everything can be shared in the GBA cities. We can do options, we can do different types of crossovers, and also do charities. In one conclusion, in order to do for the 14th Five-Year Plan, especially for the Greater China politics, we can use the hub and foundation in Hong Kong and also in the GBA cities, and step by step to develop for China’s “dual circulation”.

Dr. Patrick Lau said he believes the GBA is a good opportunity for businesses to get into the very big and potential mainland market for the first step. Hong Kong, obviously the international hub, can be the most ideal entry point for the business going into GBA. Many international businesses are very keen on the GBA cities and doing a lot of outreaches both here in Hong Kong, as well as overseas offices during the pandemic time. Everyone is very keen on the GBA opportunities.

Mr. Clarence Ling Chun-kit said, “During my various entrepreneurship mentorship experiences, I came to realize that we should help Hong Kong youth to know about our own country. Many young people don’t really know what’s happening in the mainland; it’s our responsibility to help them to understand the bigger picture.”

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About the Hong Kong Coalition
The Hong Kong Coalition is founded by 1,500 initiators from all sectors of Hong Kong society, with Mr. Tung Chee Hwa and Mr. Leung Chun Ying assuming the roles of chief convener, Mr. Tam Yiu Chung serving as secretary-general, and Ms. Maria Tam Wai Chu and 10 other members holding the posts of deputy secretary-general. The coalition held a press conference on May 5, 2020, declaring its official establishment. The aims of the Hong Kong Coalition are: Uphold “one country, two systems”, support Hong Kong to overcome difficulties; and start afresh for brilliance ahead.

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