Joint Conference in HK today
The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, and the Executive Vice-Governor of Guangdong Province, Mr Tang Bingquan, co-chaired the Fifth Working Meeting of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in Hong Kong today (May 12).
Both sides reviewed the progress of co-operation since the Fourth Working Meeting in January this year. They also agreed on priority areas for the coming few months.
1. Economic and trade co-operation
Both sides discussed the results of an analysis conducted by the Hong Kong on the economic impact of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA). The results show that following the implementation of CEPA (including the Individual Visit Scheme), more than 29,000 and 17,000 job opportunities would be created for Hong Kong residents (in both Hong Kong and the Mainland) and Mainland residents respectively in the initial two years. Moreover, it would also bring in additional investments of HK$5.5 billion and HK$6.7 billion for Hong Kong and the Mainland respectively on services trading during the two years. Both sides also discussed how to enhance the implementation of CEPA in Guangdong and Hong Kong.
Mr Tsang pointed out that the data served to prove that CEPA had achieved the policy objectives of mutual benefits, complementary strength and joint prosperity. Since Guangdong and Hong Kong have a very close relationship, and the province is the first stepping stone for the majority of Hong Kong service enterprises to explore the Mainland market, the two governments could join hands to enhance the implementation of CEPA in various aspects by, for example, strengthening promotion of CEPA, enhancing transparency of relevant policies and regulations and simplifying the application procedures for setting up business. Moreover, in launching new policies and measures, consideration can be given to seeking approval for their implementation in Guangdong Province first on a pilot basis to try out simpler procedures and more flexible arrangements.
In an effort to train up professionals in the construction industry following the enhanced implementation of CEPA, the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau (ETWB) signed a secondment plan with the Shenzhen Construction Bureau and the Shenzhen Works Bureau in April, 2005. The first batch of architectural and engineering graduate trainees commenced their secondment training in Shenzhen in May. ETWB is exploring the extension of the programme to other regions in the province.
Both sides recognised the importance of helping Guangdong enterprises to list or set up business in Hong Kong with a view to helping them to enter the international market. They discussed ways to facilitate this, including for example making use of the professional services in Hong Kong to give advice to these enterprises, introducing the business environment and procedures for starting business in Hong Kong to these enterprises, as well as studying ways to simplify relevant application procedures on the Mainland.
To encourage and facilitate Mainland enterprises to invest and list in Hong Kong, and to help Hong Kong enterprises to develop in the Mainland market, both sides will continue to organise promotional activities. The Business Fair for Hong Kong/Guangdong Economic, Technology and Trade Co-operation, for example, is scheduled for July this year. Both sides will also jointly promote the investment environment and edges of both places. In the pipeline is the Hong Kong-Guangdong Business Seminar in the USA and the Hong Kong-Guangdong Business Seminar in Canada to be held in San Francisco and Vancouver in October respectively this year. Mr Tsang believed that the seminars this year would achieve the same level of success and be well received by overseas investors as the one held in London last year.
2. Construction of major infrastructure and co-operation at control points
The three improvement works at the control points including the new boundary bridges at Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang and Sha Tau Kok and the extension of the Lo Wu footbridge were commissioned on January 19, 2005. They have helped improve the traffic of the relevant control points.
Both sides agreed to closely monitor the construction progress of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor and the related control point with the objective of seeing through its opening by the second half of 2006. Discussion on the regulation of cross-boundary traffic following the opening of the corridor will continue.
Hong Kong will continue to discuss the implementation of "Co-location" with Shenzhen to make sure its smooth running in future. Besides, the construction of the new boundary footbridge at Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang is progressing satisfactorily. The works are expected to be completed on time and tie in with the opening of the Sheung Shui/Lok Ma Chau Spur Line in or before mid-2007.
Further to the positive progress made last month regarding the alignment and landing point of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, both sides agreed to complete the remaining preparatory work in good time with a view to commencing the construction works as soon as possible.
On railroad, the two sides agreed to complete the arrangement for direct cargo freight service between Dongguan and Hung Hom in a few months. Both sides also agreed to take forward the preparatory work for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
On air transport and related services, the Airport Authority and related business partners are planning to provide check-in service at Shekou on a pilot basis in July-August this year to provide more convenient service for passengers.
3. Tourism co-operation
Guangdong, Macao and Hong Kong will continue to organise joint promotional activities. The three sides took part in the International Travel Expo and promotional drive in Berlin, Germany, Guangzhou and India in February and March this year. The focus was on promoting to the tourism industry and customers "thematic clusters" and the special features of tourist spots in the three places.
Moreover, the three parties are preparing for joint promotional activities in Hong Kong in June and in Japan in September this year. They will also join other provinces in the Pan-Pearl River Delta Region to promote the overall tourism image of the region in staging roving promotional activities in Canada and taking part in the American Society of Travel Agents World Travel Congress in Montreal in November this year.
Hong Kong and Guangdong also agreed to co-operate on cross-boundary transport and arrangement at control points to cope with the people flow brought by the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland in September this year. Both sides agreed to issue additional daily quotas for cross boundary coaches via Lok Ma Chau, and formulate transport arrangements to facilitate Mainland tourists travelling to and from the theme park.
Mr Tsang hoped that the two sides would continue the close co-operation to ensure smooth operation at control points and provide good transport arrangements so that the Mainland tourists would have an enjoyable journey in visiting Hong Kong Disneyland. It will also encourage foreign tourists to visit Guangdong Province after visiting the theme park.
4. Logistics development
Both sides agreed that following the relaxation of the "4-up-4-down" rule on the Mainland in January this year, other measures that promote cross-boundary freight transportation should also be put into place as soon as possible. Such measures include relaxing the "1-truck-1-driver" requirement, extending the duration of service for joint Guangdong-Hong Kong cross-boundary freight transportation businesses as well as extending the operating hours of designated inland control points on a pilot basis.
5. Co-operation in technology
A funding scheme jointly set up by Guangdong and Hong Kong governments to support research and development (R&D) projects has been in full swing since 2004. Under the 2004 scheme, the two governments have decided to support 67 R&D projects with a total funding of about HK$300 million. Both sides agreed that the scheme should continue in 2005 and are considering increasing the funding amount. Application for funding is expected to begin in June.
Mr Tsang said that the funding scheme would help promote technology co-operation between the two places, facilitate further technology transfer and commercialisation and support the development and upgrading of industries in the Greater Pearl River Delta. The scheme would also encourage the enhancement of the innovative and technological capabilities of enterprises in the two places.
6. Co-operation in language education
Both sides will keep up the efforts in co-operation in language education with a view to complementing each other and raising the standard as a whole. A total of 15 Chinese language teachers from Guangdong province came to Hong Kong in September last year to embark on the Collaborative and Exchange Project in local schools focusing on the teaching of Chinese language and Putonghua. Collaborative research work was conducted to strengthen the professional development of teachers and to raise local students' learning ability and interest in the Chinese Language. The first phase of the project was completed successfully and the second phase has started at the beginning of the second half of the current school year. The number of schools taking part in the project has increased from 16 in the first phase to 32 in the second.
About 40 primary English teachers from Guangdong province took part in English language training courses in Hong Kong from January to February this year separately. Putonghua courses to be provided for Putonghua teachers in Hong Kong will be held at South China Normal University in July and August this year.
The two sides also discussed co-operation in other areas. Issues involved include putting into operation later this year the regional monitoring network of air quality which is being on trial; launching an exchange programme for civil servants in mid-2005; the confirmation of the contents of the "Planning Study on the Co-ordinated Development of the Greater Pearl River Delta Township" study; establishment of links and exchanges in cultural aspects (e.g. arts performance, cultural messages, museums and cultural institutions, libraries and Cantonese opera, etc.); and continuous co-operation with regard to intellectual property right.
Mr Tsang said that the areas of co-operation have become more diversified and comprehensive. Not only do they strengthen the foundation for co-operation and integration between Guangdong and Hong Kong, they also contribute to the sustained development of the two places. Apart from the governments, the non-government sector has also been taking on a pivotal role. He hoped that the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council and its counterpart in the province will work together to keep on contributing to the success of the co-operation and development of the two places.
Ends/Thursday, May 12, 2005