Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu delivers a speech at the Hong Kong Summit organized by the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong on Oct 12, 2022. (PHOTO / INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT, HKSAR)
HONG KONG – Hong Kong has thrived as the gateway connecting the country to the rest of the world thanks to the innovative "one country, two systems" principle, the city’s leader said on Wednesday.
The "one country, two systems" guiding principle distinguishes Hong Kong from any other economy in the world, John Lee Ka-chiu said in his speech at the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (BritCham) Hong Kong Summit.
“That has created countless opportunities for companies looking to tap into the mainland economy, or connect with the rest of Asia and the world beyond.”
Pointing out that Hong Kong has maintained close trade ties with the United Kingdom, Lee said bilateral merchandise trade in 2021 amounted to $17.7 billion, representing a growth of over 25 percent from the previous year.
Hong Kong is an important entrepot for merchandise trade between the UK and the Chinese mainland, with trade amounting to $9.9 billion between the two economies routing through the special administrative region last year, he said.
Hand in hand with our growing connectivity with the region, and the world, is our deepening connectivity and indeed, integration, with the mainland.
John Lee, Chief Executive, HKSAR
Referring to the theme of this year’s BritCham summit, ‘The Next 25 Years & Beyond’, the Hong Kong leader said, “What I can tell you is that we are building the road to a bountiful future, to the economy and the community we want for Hong Kong – for ourselves, our businesses and our families. That road is planned as a multi-lane, multi-layered, superhighway.”
Referring to President Xi Jinping’s July 1 speech during the 25th-anniversary celebration of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, Lee said the central government fully supports the city in its effort to expand and facilitate its exchanges with the world.
“Those rewarding exchanges are rooted in Hong Kong’s enviable connectivity, and it is this connectivity that has helped us overcome challenges before, connectivity that will ensure our prosperity over the next 25 years and beyond,” he added.
Pointing out that Hong Kong is among the world’s most externally oriented and open economies, he said: “We have been a separate and full member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) since 1991, and under the name Hong Kong, China since 1997.”
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Stressing the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to Hong Kong, he said the SAR has been ASEAN’s second-largest trading partner since 2010. “The ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement and related investment agreement entered into force, in full, this year, and will boost our bilateral trade down the long road. The agreements encompass a wide range of liberalization measures.”
Talking on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s largest free trade agreement, Lee said RCEP economies are Hong Kong’s major trading partners, accounting for more than 70 percent of the SAR’s total merchandise trade in 2021. Hong Kong is actively seeking early accession to RCEP, he added.
“Hand in hand with our growing connectivity with the region, and the world, is our deepening connectivity and indeed, integration, with the mainland.”
Nothing speaks more directly, and more powerfully, of those welling ties than Hong Kong’s inclusion in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, a far-reaching cluster city development boasting a combined population of 86 million and a GDP of over $1.9 trillion, he said.
Saying that he is well aware of the community’s concern with the pace in opening-up, Lee added, “That is why we have removed entirely the requirement of hotel quarantine, less than three months since my taking office and rolled out the “0+3” plan on Sept 26.”
There is already a steady growth in arrival and departure figures at the airport, he said, expressing his belief that the new arrangement will have a ripple effect on Hong Kong’s economic activities and help rejuvenate its businesses, industries and in turn, the city.
“While I understand your aspiration for continuing to open up ourselves to the world, I must stress that it is also important to remain prudent in our way forward.”
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