Chairman's Message
Chairman's Message - Making the Best Use of ASEAN Free Trade Platform for People-to-people Bonding

Dr Jonathan CHOI Koon-shum (Chairman of the 50th terms of office) December 2017


Although deepening economic, trade and investment exchanges are an important driver, cultural and social interaction is also an essential element for driving market cooperation along the B&R.


Earlier this month, for three days in a row, we held the CGCC Belt & Road FEST at the Chater Garden, Central where the public enjoyed the social customs of countries along the “Belt and Road” (B&R) through local delicacies, workshops, multimedia games, music and dance performances.


Philippine Foreign Minister graced the opening ceremony and many ASEAN consulates-general in Hong Kong participated in the event. Actually, Hong Kong has maintained close ties with ASEAN countries and signed a free trade agreement with them last month.


Free trade agreement to help “B&R”

In recent years, CGCC has strived to encourage member companies and the business community to participate in the “B&R Initiative” while promoting closer ties and cooperation with ASEAN. In our view, although deepening economic, trade and investment exchanges are an important driver, cultural and social interaction is also an essential element for driving market cooperation along the B&R.


Besides the very extensive free trade agreement, Hong Kong and ASEAN have reached some agreements on cooperation or commitments on opening up in areas such as culture, education, tourism and related services. These areas of cooperation involving social interaction coincide with the B&R initiative’s goal of people-to-people bonding, which will help enhance the depth of development and space for sustainable development in the areas along the B&R and bring more diversified market opportunities for the business community.



Promoting humanistic development and interaction

In this column and some newspaper articles in the past, I pointed out that under the framework of the free trade agreement, Hong Kong’s products can benefit from ASEAN’s tariff reductions and exemptions and its imports from ASEAN will become increasingly diversified. The agreement will further facilitate two-way investment in each other's services, promote mutual recognition of professional qualifications and improve exchange of talents, thus enhancing the professional services of both sides.


Of course, the benefits of signing the free trade agreement certainly go beyond this. In fact, Southeast Asian countries are popular tourist destinations among Hong Kong people, and the number of Southeast Asian tourists visiting Hong Kong has also continued to rise in recent years. When the free trade agreement takes effect, mutual economic activities will further increase. Coupled with the sustained growth of ASEAN’s middle-class population, it will spur overseas spending and tourism demand, and there will be more frequent interaction between people of the two places. Therefore, the business community can explore more space for tourism-related market development.


Hong Kong and ASEAN countries can explore developing the cultural tourism markets of both places and bringing in creativity as well as innovation technology elements. By doing so, they can work together to tap more opportunities for developing culture- and tourism-related businesses along the B&R.


The “B&R Initiative” also attaches great importance to youth development and interaction. At present, the HKSAR Government has put in place the B&R Scholarship to attract outstanding students to further their study in Hong Kong. We hope that the HKSAR government can work with ASEAN governments to devote more resources to youth education and personnel training in order to nurture more young talents with an international perspective in the long run.


In summary, the signing of the free trade agreement between Hong Kong and ASEAN marks a further deepening of cooperation between the two places. The Hong Kong business community should capture the opportunities actively. While tapping economic, trade and investment opportunities, we should also participate in promoting more cultural exchanges, social interaction and youth development to make Hong Kong and ASEAN an important bridge for people-to-people bonding in the B&R.