Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Belt & Road initiative to drive global growth

Financial Secretary John Tsang

This is, indeed, the right moment as well as the right place for us, to seek to understand more about the different perspectives of the Belt & Road initiative, in particular the business environment and investment opportunities in the emerging markets in Central Asia.


I say this is the right moment because the outlook of the global economy, as we speak, is still full of uncertainties. In fact, the long-lost growth momentum of the world economy since the global financial crisis in 2008 is having no sign of a recovery.


While the US economy is at long last showing some encouraging signs, there are grave concerns over the slowdown of the economies of the Mainland as well as other emerging markets. There is also hardly any progress made in the recovery of the Eurozone and Japan. Demand in the advanced economies is expected to remain lacklustre for the foreseeable future.


The visionary and ambitious concepts of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, spearheaded by President Xi, can fill the void and become the much-needed driving force of the world economy in this 21st century.


This initiative presents the world with an abundance of business opportunities in an unprecedented way. With this grand strategy encouraging closer economic as well as cultural co-operation among some 60-plus economies, particularly those emerging economies spanning Asia, Europe and Africa, we envisage soaring infrastructure investment, deepening financial integration, expanding trade flow and growing people-to-people bonds.


Massive opportunities

With their strategic locations, the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Central Asia, together with other observer states and dialogue partners of the Organisation, are indeed well positioned to tap the massive opportunities arising from the Belt & Road initiative.


I say this is the right place, because Hong Kong, with our distinctive advantage operating under the unique ‘One country, two systems’ framework, can play a central role in delivering fully the enormous opportunities presented by the Belt & Road initiative.


As China's international financial centre, and one of the world's leading financial capitals, Hong Kong has all it takes, from our world-class market infrastructure and unparalleled business network to the robust legal system, to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for countries along the Belt & Road.


Clearly, the experience and expertise of Hong Kong's high-end professionals in the fields of accounting, law, architecture, engineering management and much more can offer solid support to the management and operation of infrastructural projects that serve to boost connectivity among the countries, including but not limited to railway, airport, port as well as power supply.


Collaboration key

For Hong Kong to capitalise on the wealth of opportunities of the Belt & Road initiative, we need to learn and understand the business opportunities and potential areas of collaboration with different markets, especially the many emerging markets dominating the landscape along the Belt & Road.


We are moving proactively to strengthen the ties with these countries on the G2G level and to foster a deeper understanding of the political, economic and cultural make-up of these economies. These useful exchanges will no doubt facilitate the drawing up of Hong Kong's specific strategies in seizing the opportunities ahead of us.


Last month, I led a first-of-its-kind Belt & Road business delegation from Hong Kong to visit Hungary, Poland and Germany, and met with a number of senior government officials as well as prominent business partners of the three countries during my six-day visit.


I am glad to note that these three countries have all drawn up strategies and are gearing themselves up in participating in the grand plan of the Belt & Road.


Poised to reap benefits

In June, Hungary became the first country in Europe to sign an MOU with the Mainland on promoting the Belt & Road. As for Poland, it was the only Central European country on the list of the founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB.


And as Europe's most powerful economy and China's biggest trade partner in the region, Germany has all the essentials, in particular in the logistic infrastructure and railway network that extends all the way to the south-eastern part of China, to reap the enormous benefits of the Belt & Road initiative.


We are now actively preparing for a visit to Central Asia to gain a first-hand view of these resourceful economies so that our investors from Hong Kong would be able to grasp the massive opportunities that are waiting to find the right collaboration.


Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Conference on Silk Road Strategy - Focus on Tajikistan at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

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