The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, and the Executive Vice-Governor of Guangdong Province, Mr Tang Bingquan, co-chaired the Fourth Working Meeting of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in Guangzhou this morning (January 11).
In the afternoon they met with members of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council and members of Guangdong Sub-groups under the Mechanism for the Hong Kong/Guangdong Private Sector Co-operation led by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) Guangdong Sub-council. The two sides discussed co-operation of the business organisations between the two places.
The Fourth Working Meeting
Both sides reviewed the progress since the Seventh Plenary of the Joint Conference in August last year, and agreed on priority areas for the coming six months.
1. Economic and trade co-operation
To tie in with the implementation of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), one-stop consultation points have been set up in major cities of Guangdong province, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. Guangdong Provincial Administration for Industry and Commerce has set up a counter to handle registration applications.
To follow up on the implementation of the second phase of CEPA in Guangdong and to make timely and appropriate responses, both governments agreed to exchange contact information on working counterparts in the newly added service sectors. The Hong Kong Government also plans to complete a study on the economic impact of CEPA within the first quarter of this year.
In the past few months, the two sides organised a series of investment and trade promotion activities, including the "Hong Kong-Guangdong Business Seminar" in London in October last year during which the Governor of Guangdong Province and the Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong promoted the business environment of the Greater Pearl River Delta (GPRD).
Hong Kong officials, together with representatives from mainland cities like Dongguan, Huizhou and Jiangmen, also visited France, Japan and Germany to conduct roadshow promotions. Early last month, the Chief Secretary for Administration also led a business delegation to Shantou and Meizhou to explore business opportunities and to promote economic co-operation.
Invest Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council will continue to organise promotional activities. The Business Fair for Hong Kong/Guangdong Economic, Technology and Trade Co-operation, for example, scheduled for May in Hong Kong, will encourage Mainland businesses to invest and list in Hong Kong. It will also aim to help Hong Kong enterprises enter the Mainland market.
2. Logistics development
The Customs General Administration of the People's Republic of China announced last December that, with effect from January 1, 2005, the tractors, trailers and containers of freight vehicles would no longer be "tied together" for cross-boundary trips. This relaxes the original "4-up-4-down" rule, and is welcomed by both sides as it enhances the efficiency of cross-boundary freight transportation.
The two sides have also commenced discussion on other initiatives that promote cross-boundary road freight transport, such as the relaxation of the "one truck-one driver" requirement, arrangements for the issue of Guangdong-Hong Kong road freight licences and improvements to customs clearance services at inland control points.
3. Co-operation in technology
A funding scheme jointly set up by Guangdong and Hong Kong governments to support research and development (R&D) projects will be in full swing this year. Under the funding scheme, both governments will support a total of 67 R&D projects.
Mr Donald Tsang said the funding scheme would help promote technology transfer and commercialisation of R&D deliverables, thus supporting the development and upgrading of industries. The scheme would also encourage the application of R&D results developed within the region, instead of imported technologies. The innovativeness and value-adding capabilities of enterprises in the two places will thus be enhanced, thereby improving the competitiveness of the products they manufacture.
4. Construction of major infrastructure and co-operation at control points
Both sides agreed to take forward the preparatory work for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project and to continue with the investigative studies on the feasibility of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-HK Express Rail Link. They agreed to monitor closely the construction progress of HK-Shenzhen Western Corridor with the objective of seeing through its opening by the second half of 2006. Discussion has begun on the regulation of cross-boundary traffic following the opening of the corridor.
To improve the facilities and operation of the present control points, the new boundary bridges at Lok Ma Chau/Huangguang and Sha Tau Kok and improvement works for the Lo Wu footbridge will be completed and open for use in the near future.
On air transport and related services, the new cross-boundary ferry routes running between Hong Kong International Airport and Lianhuashan (Panyu) and Zhongshan respectively were launched in December last year. The Airport Authority, airline companies, relevant ferry and terminal operators are planning to provide check-in services to sea-to-air transit passengers at the relevant PRD ports.
5. Regional planning
In the Seventh Plenary of Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference last year, both sides agreed to set up an "Expert Group on Hong Kong/Guangdong Town Planning and Development" in order to further strengthen co-operation and communication in planning and development issues between the two sides. The expert group will launch a study on the "Co-ordinated Development of the GPRD Township" this year.
Mr Tsang said the study would take a proactive approach when considering the direction for GPRD development. Both sides would also be able to formulate a strategy that was beneficial to the coordinated development and enhanced competitiveness of the region.
6. Environmental protection co-operation
A regional monitoring network covering the entire PRD region with 16 monitoring stations will come into operation early this year. Both sides will strive to report the monitoring results to the public in the earliest possible instance. Reports on air quality will be submitted to the government of the two sides every six months after the operation. The data gathered by the monitoring network will be helpful in monitoring the change in air quality within the region in the long run. It will also help the two sides understand the effectiveness of the measures taken in improving air quality.
7. Civil service exchange
The two governments signed an agreement in December, 2004, to exchange civil servants. In the next two years, each side will select up to 15 civil servants each year to participate in the exchange programme.
8. Co-operation in protection of intellectual property
The "No Fakes" Pledge scheme launched by Hong Kong's Intellectual Property Department has been introduced in Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen and Shantou. It will be extended to other cities in Guangdong province. Also, to promote awareness of intellectual property rights among people and enterprises in Guangdong province, and to strengthen the confidence of external investors in the province and its surrounding area, governments of the two sides will continue to hold seminars on "Intellectual Property and the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises" in Guangdong province.
9. Co-operation in language education
In September last year, 15 accomplished language teachers from Guangdong province came to Hong Kong to embark on the Collaborative and Exchange Project in local schools focusing on Chinese language and Putonghua. The project enhanced professional exchange between the visiting and local teachers. Collaborative research work was conducted to strengthen the professional development of the teachers and to raise local students' learning ability and interest in the Chinese Language.
Forty primary school English teachers from Guangdong province will take part in English language training courses and conduct exchange with English teachers in Hong Kong between January and February this year.
Co-operation between the two sides in other areas such as tourism, culture, sports, and the communication mechanism for infectious disease control will continue.
Discussion between governments of Hong Kong and Guangdong and business organisations of both sides
During the meeting this afternoon, Chairman of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council, Dr Victor Fung Kwok-king, and the council's members gave a briefing on the progress of the Business Council made since its inception in March last year and gave their views on a number of co-operation areas. They were as follows:
* on the provision of trade facilitation between Hong Kong and Guangdong and further improvement in cross-boundary cargo and passenger flow, they called for the relaxation of "one truck-one driver" requirement on cargo land transport and on the improvement of services at boundary control points.
* they called for the further improvement of CEPA arrangements, including improved transparency and simplification of procedures.
* they called for measures such as simplifying the approval procedures in the Mainland with a view to attracting Mainland enterprises to set up business in Hong Kong.
* they called for simplified procedures to assist the outward processing business in the Mainland to sell their products in the Mainland market.
* they called on the two governments to jointly promote environmental protection with business associations and large corporations in order to improve air quality in the Pearl River Delta region. They also appealed to the Hong Kong businesses in the Pearl River Delta region to take the lead in environmental protection.
* They called for concerted efforts to promote the Greater Pearl River Delta.
The Business Council is also studying co-operation aspects in other areas such as social integration, technology, education, human resources, tourism, culture and sports. Meanwhile, the Business Council will maintain close liaison with the CCPIT Guangdong Sub-council to research matters of mutual concern.
Mr Tsang said the involvement of the business and commercial sectors in the development of the Greater Pearl River Delta was essential. The views rendered by the Business Council will have a positive effect in promoting co-operation and development of Hong Kong and Guangdong. The two governments will study these views and comments and take appropriate follow-up action.
The Business Council, comprising 32 members including the chairman, was appointed by the Chief Executive. Its objective is to complement the work of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference to serve as a private-sector-led channel to take forward comments and suggestions from the business sector regarding economic co-operation within the Greater Pearl River Delta.
Ends/Tuesday, January 11, 2005