Speech by CBR at the Pakistan-Hong Kong Trade and Investment Forum (English only)
Following is the speech by the Commissioner for Belt and Road, Miss Yvonne Choi, at the Pakistan-Hong Kong Trade and Investment Forum (February 16, 2017):
Ambassador Khalid (Ambassador of Pakistan to PRC), Consul General Abdul Qadir Memon, Dr Iqbal, honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Pakistan delegation.
I dare say with reasonable confidence that Consul General Memon has asked one of the right persons in the Hong Kong SAR Government to join and speak at this Forum. I believe I am probably one of those rare ones, if any, now working in the Hong Kong Government, who has actually been to Pakistan as early as the mid-80s, when I went to Karachi, then travelled across the north, from Peshawar, through Taxila to Lahore, ending in Islamabad. And as many of you are aware, the path which I took in the ‘80s is now a major part in the strategic development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The ties between Pakistan and Hong Kong go a long way back. People from the Pakistan region first settled in Hong Kong in the 19th century. Over the years, the Pakistani community in Hong Kong has grown to become the fourth largest non-Chinese ethnic group in Hong Kong. Many of them were born in Hong Kong and speak Cantonese, while maintaining close cultural, social and economic ties with Pakistan. At the government level, the Pakistan Consulate General has been here since 1973. We have an Air Services Agreement signed in 1998 and we are going to sign an Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement tomorrow (February 17, 2017). We therefore have a long established relationship with Pakistan, and the relationship will grow even closer with further cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
In 2015, China announced the “Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (“Belt and Road”) Initiative emphasizing harmonious collaboration among the “Belt and Road” countries on an open and inclusive platform for development. The Initiative covers five key areas: policy coordination; connectivity of facilities; unimpeded trade; financial integration; and people-to-people bond. This bold and visionary mission is expected to bring unprecedented development opportunities not just for the economies along the “Belt and Road”, but also any interested parties around the world.
Pakistan and China have been good allies since establishing diplomatic relations in 1951. With also long standing ties with Pakistan, we in Hong Kong take heart to see Pakistan’s staunch support of the Belt and Road Initiative. In particular, CPEC is a monumental venture between the two countries that brings far reaching benefits for both countries. It builds a new platform for the growth of China-Pakistan strategic cooperative partnership, covering infrastructure development, energy cooperation, industrial park developments, tourism, financial cooperation, etc.
The Hong Kong SAR Government welcomes and supports the Belt and Road Initiative. We see it as an important driving force for Hong Kong’s economic and social development in the coming decades. And we do believe Hong Kong can play a pivotal role in this historic and unprecedented initiative. Specifically for Pakistan, Hong Kong, with world-class expertise in many business and professional sectors, could readily make contributions to the country’s many development projects under the Vision 2025 long-term development blueprint, as well as those relating to CPEC as a trusted partner. We can provide a wide range of services for railway, road, airport, port, power plant, water services and sewage treatment projects, etc. Our professional teams can do financing, feasibility studies, environmental and social impact assessment, design, construction, project management, contract management, accounting, operation, and other consultancy services, etc.
In fact, Hong Kong companies have been partnering with Chinese and Pakistani firms in a number of projects in Pakistan, such as the Karot Hydropower Project, Thar Coalfield and Karachi-Lahore Motorway, by providing engineering services, environmental impact assessment and land use planning, asphalt equipment and technical services, etc. I am confident that companies in Hong Kong stand ready to do more if both sides, at G to G and B to B levels, can work more closely together in area such as sharing of information on policies and projects.
As Hong Kong is an international financial centre, and also the world’s largest offshore RMB business hub dealing with about 70% of all off-shore RMB transactions, and with the world’s largest pool of offshore RMB funds and the widest variety of RMB-denominated investment products, I would like to point out that Pakistan was the first South Asian nation to promote the use of RMB in trading settlements, by signing a currency swap with China in 2014. I believe we can have more cooperation on the financial front as Hong Kong is an ideal financing platform for Pakistan to source international capital for her infrastructure and other projects.
In this connection, our Hong Kong Monetary Authority has set up an Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office to promote Hong Kong as a hub for financing infrastructure projects. And I am proud to say that Hong Kong has been officially invited to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. We expect the relevant procedures to be completed by the middle of this year. This will further strengthen Hong Kong’s position as an international financial centre and an effective financing platform for the Belt and Road Initiative.
In gist, Hong Kong’s edge comprises the following:
Hong Kong is uniquely poised to act as a “Super-Connector” in the Belt and Road Initiative, serving as the major platform for financing, trade and logistics promotion, high-end professional services, arbitration and litigation, tourism, new industries, as well as education, youth and cultural exchanges.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Consul General Memon on pulling off this meaningful and extremely useful endeavour of organising the new Pakistan-Hong Kong Trade & Investment Forum series and wish you every success! I look to closer and even more fruitful cooperation in the future. Thank you.
Ends/Thursday, February 16, 2017