|Wednesday, 30 November 2016, 18:00 HKT/SGT|
|Forum Highlights Infrastructure, Legal and Financial Services|
HONG KONG, Nov 30, 2016 - (ACN Newswire) - Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and the Federation of Hong Kong Business Associations Worldwide (FHKBAW), the 17th Hong Kong Forum opened yesterday (29 November) and continues through today at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Yesterday's seminar "Hong Kong: Your Beacon along the Belt and Road" welcomed three respected industry professionals to analyse Hong Kong's competitive edge in infrastructure, legal and financial services in relation to the China-led Belt and Road Initiative, which promotes connectivity between more than 60 countries from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Hong Kong's extensive experience in infrastructure projects
Keith Griffiths, Chairman of Aedas, one of the world's largest architectural firms, noted that Hong Kong's economy began to thrive in the 1970s, and, as a result, numerous infrastructure projects have been completed in the city over the past four decades. With this experience, Hong Kong's pool of professional services talent gives the city a competitive edge in terms of contributing to Belt and Road infrastructure projects and urbanisation on the Chinese mainland.
Mr Griffiths stated that architectural firms based in Hong Kong, including Aedas, are world-renowned companies with infrastructure projects worldwide. Some of these projects are in Belt and Road countries and cover seaport, road and airport developments. Hong Kong property developers also have extensive experience, as they have been involved in different kinds of infrastructure, commercial and residential projects since the 1980s, according to Mr Griffiths.
He also highlighted the connectivity of Hong Kong's transport and mobility infrastructure as a model that is being adopted in mainland cities. "Such high density integrated projects have long been launched in Hong Kong; for instance, the district of Central is connected via footbridges throughout. Hong Kong has a population density of 15-18: 1, while mainland cities have a population density of 8:1," he said, adding that this reflects expertise that Hong Kong infrastructure companies can offer to other high-density cities.
Advantages of "one country, two systems" formula
Another speaker, Elaine Lo, Partner, Head of China Practice, Mayer Brown JSM, said that Hong Kong's legal services are extremely important for investors and financers of Belt and Road projects.
She quoted statistics stating that the mainland's overseas direct investment reached US$123 billion in 2014, making it the world's third-largest investor country. Of the nation's overseas direct investment, 58 per cent was channeled through Hong Kong. She also said the fact that mainland companies listed on Hong Kong's stock market comprise more than half of the total number of listed firms demonstrates that these companies are keen to use Hong Kong as a springboard to "go global". Ms Lo said: "Under the framework of 'One Country, Two Systems', the Common Law is practiced in Hong Kong, which is more acceptable to foreign governments and enterprises. In addition, infrastructure projects are years-long investments where disputes often arise. Legal professionals from Hong Kong are familiar with the business environment in foreign countries. They have extensive experience in arbitration in such projects, and they excel in negotiation. These are all unique advantages that Hong Kong possesses."
According to Ms Lo, there are 872 law firms in Hong Kong, of which 78 are registered overseas law firms, and the city is home to 1,331 registered foreign lawyers from 32 jurisdictions. They are not only familiar with Hong Kong's Common Law system, but they also come from different countries and many of them are proficient in multiple languages.
Niche for financial services
Meanwhile, Peter Burnett, Regional Head, Corporate Finance, Greater China & North Asia, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Limited, stated his observations about the Belt and Road Initiative.
"As is emphasised by all the Chinese officials I have come into contact with, the Belt and Road fosters economic prosperity through cooperation in trade and business between the countries in the regions. Your neighbor prospers, you should prosper. These are the investment opportunities," he said, adding that it was an opportunity for all countries to participate and "not a closed shop".
He said Hong Kong's financial services also possess distinctive niche areas, including as an international financial centre and an offshore renminbi business hub. Hong Kong is also the top IPO market worldwide, attracting some of the world's largest IPOs in the past 20 years.
Mr Burnett also pinpointed Hong Kong's free capital flows, synergy of various professional services, and the city's substantial experience in infrastructure and financing as important advantages that can help Hong Kong grasp the Belt and Road business opportunities.
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