Asia Opportunities, Technology and Belt and Road Collaboration Spotlighted
“Think Asia, Think Hong Kong,” a large-scale Hong Kong business promotion organised in London by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and supported by more than 60 UK organisations, attracted over 2,100 participants from the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.
Over a three-day period (19-21 September), a series of activities were held, including business missions, a gala dinner, and a full-day symposium featuring 50 high-profile speakers in panel discussions and thematic seminars, plus more than 220 business matching meetings. Returning to the UK since its launch in 2011, this flagship promotion profiled Hong Kong’s strengths as a business hub for British companies looking to expand to China and Asia. Building on the close ties between the UK and Hong Kong, businesses were urged to consider new collaboration opportunities such as technology (including FinTech), marketing and branding, creative and entertainment, as well as the potential from the Belt and Road Initiative
Margaret Fong, Executive Director of the HKTDC, said “trade and investment has been the bedrock of our business relationship”. Ms Fong also mentioned the new trade flows which are emerging and the new trade cooperation agreements which are being put into place such as the upcoming Free Trade Agreement with the 10-nation ASEAN community.
The Hong Kong delegation was led by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), who reminded the audience of the long-standing trade and economic relationship with the UK and added, “Despite the continuous opening up of the Mainland China economy, Hong Kong continues to be an ideal gateway for foreign companies, including, of course, British companies, to tap the fast-growing Greater China market. The unique advantages that Hong Kong enjoys under ‘one country, two systems’ and our very strong commercial links with the Mainland of China naturally make us the preferred location for doing business in Asia.”
Guest of honour Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy and Minister for London, said he was pleased that London is the first city to host “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” twice and commented “I strongly believe that the UK and Hong Kong are only just beginning to realise the opportunities for our partnership”.
Closer partnerships in the new economic order
The morning symposium started with a lively and upbeat panel on Asia in the New Economic Order, which covered many of Hong Kong’s defining advantages such as its legal framework and infrastructure and discussed the need to take advantage of the great opportunity that Asia currently offers. Victor Chu, Chairman, First Eastern Investment Group, described Hong Kong as “buzzing, active and at the cutting edge of innovation and the best bridge to China and other parts of Asia”; while Douglas Flint, Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings plc, describing the Belt and Road Initiative as “one of the most exciting concepts ever to have been conceived” and a “huge opportunity for Asia”.
Left to right: Andrew Heyn; James Lau; The Hon. Greg Hands MP; Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor; Edward Yau; Minister Counsellor Zhu Qin; Margaret Fong.
Navigating Belt and Road opportunities through Hong Kong
The Belt and Road Initiative, described as currently the largest and most important global development plan, was a recurring key theme of the day and featured in The Belt and Road Initiative: Partnering for Prosperity panel discussion during the main symposium as well as in the thematic session Hong Kong: Gateway to Belt and Road Opportunities, co-organised with the HKMA Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office (IFFO). Gregory Hodkinson, Chairman, ARUP Group Ltd, described the Belt and Road as a modern global initiative that is “more than a growth story, it is a story about the fundamental choices we face as a shared society”. Laura Cha, Chairman, Financial Services Development Council, Hong Kong, explained that “financing demand is where the Hong Kong advantage comes in – it is the primary market for Chinese companies to access capital”.
Tapping the Chinese mainland and Asian markets
According to a recent research among 1,000 UK companies commissioned by the HKTDC, the biggest opportunities that businesses recognise for launching into the Chinese mainland is its huge consumer base (42%), followed by its growing middle class (35%) and ability to be early adopters of technology (27%).
The thematic session Doing Business in China and throughout Asia highlighted the opportunity around Asia’s burgeoning middle-class consumers and the importance of e-commerce in expanding into this market with Michelle Leung, Senior Vice President, Fung Omni Services, Fung Group, explaining how easy it is to kick-start setting up a business in just two to three months. The changing nature of business was highlighted by Jonathan Cummings, Chairman, FITCH Hong Kong, who said “ten years ago, it was all about the big brands, consumers are becoming more and more market savvy and niche brands are gaining popularity”.
Exploring Hong Kong’s FinTech ecosystem
Hong Kong, as an international financial centre with a highly developed information and communications technology infrastructure, is well-positioned to become a premier FinTech hub. In the thematic session on the topic of Hong Kong: Asia’s FinTech Capital, Dr Lee George Lam, Chairman of Hong Kong Cyberport, opened by saying “China is the largest FinTech market in the world and it is growing”. Dr David Chung Wai-keung, Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the HKSAR Government, added “Hong Kong will become Asia’s FinTech Capital” as Li Shu-Pui, Executive Director, Financial Infrastructure, HKMA, confirmed that “any Chinese companies wanting to go global come to Hong Kong first”.
Strengthening UK-China cooperation in innovation
As UK enterprises expand into Asia, Chinese mainland and Asian companies are also looking for international investment and business opportunities with UK companies. Hong Kong is the ideal facilitator to help both sides find the right partners, matching relevant businesses together and providing professional services throughout the process.
The fourth thematic session UK-Sino Investment Partnerships in Innovation and Technologies focused on how the “connectivity” between Hong Kong, China and the UK helps businesses start and grow in Hong Kong. Speakers were positive in their outlook for Hong Kong’s position, with Shusen Meng, President, China Unicom Global Ltd, commenting “I have no doubt that Europe and the rest of the world will rely on Hong Kong as a super connector”.