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18th Working Meeting of Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference held in Guangzhou (with photos/video)

     The Chief Secretary for Administration (CS), Mrs Carrie Lam, and the Vice-Governor of Guangdong Province, Ms Zhao Yufang, co-chaired the 18th Working Meeting of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in Guangzhou today (March 15). Relevant officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and officials of the Guangdong Provincial Government attended the meeting.

     At the meeting the two governments reviewed the progress of implementation of the 2012 Work Plan of the Framework Agreement on Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation (Work Plan) and drew up the 2013 Work Plan. The 84 co-operation items in the 2013 Work Plan basically cover all areas of Hong Kong/Guangdong co-operation.

     In respect of individual areas of co-operation, the progress and direction for further co-operation are set out below:

Promoting early and basic achievement of liberalisation of trade in services between Hong Kong and Guangdong

     The objective of "early achievement of liberalisation of trade in services with Hong Kong in 2014" announced by the Guangdong Province last year is of great significance to the development of trade in services between the two places. We hope that the two places can continue to work closely and strive to achieve this objective as soon as possible. On the other hand, in order to fully implement the liberalisation measures under the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), we hope that Guangdong can proactively improve its business environment by streamlining approval procedures, enhancing transparency and strengthening publicity promotion, in order to bring substantive benefits to the trade.

Financial Co-operation

     In the past year, cross-border RMB business between Guangdong and Hong Kong has continued to develop. RMB trade settlement conducted through Hong Kong in 2012 exceeded RMB 2,600 billion, of which over 20 per cent was contributed by RMB trade settlement between Guangdong and Hong Kong. In addition, there has been good progress in cross-border RMB lending in Qianhai. Under the provisional rules on the management of cross-border RMB loans in Qianhai announced at the end of last year, companies which are registered in Qianhai and have substantial operation or investments in the area are allowed to borrow RMB from banks conducting RMB business in Hong Kong. The initiative will further enhance the cross-border use and circulation of RMB funds between the Mainland and Hong Kong, creating more opportunities in RMB loan business for Hong Kong banks.

     There has also been considerable progress in other aspects of financial co-operation. As at the end of last year, five Hong Kong-funded banks have set up a total of 39 sub-branches in Guangdong. A total of 136 Guangdong enterprises have been listed in Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong subsidiaries of seven securities companies, seven fund management companies and three futures trading companies of the Mainland have obtained licenses to carry out regulated activities in Hong Kong.

     The two sides will continue to promote the development of cross-border RMB businesses this year. Consideration would be given to the further expansion of cross-border RMB lending to other parts of the Guangdong Province (including Nansha and Hengqin) and innovation and development of cross-border RMB business to allow participation by individuals in the two places. The two sides will also promote mutual access to the insurance markets of the two places by supporting Hong Kong insurance companies to set up operation in Guangdong, and encouraging Guangdong enterprises to establish their captive insurers in Hong Kong. Also, the two sides will facilitate the setting up of joint-venture companies in the securities, advisory, fund and asset management sectors.

Professional Services

     The two sides agreed that the Hong Kong professional services sector, with its extensive international experience, can play an important role in assisting Guangdong to achieve liberalisation of trade in services with Hong Kong and modernise its economic structure. This year the two sides will accord priority to promoting co-operation in three areas, namely accounting, legal services, and construction and related engineering services.

     On accounting services, Supplement IX to CEPA concluded last year allows Hong Kong professionals to become partners of accounting firms in Qianhai on a pilot basis, which is a significant breakthrough. Building on this, this year the two sides will focus on exploring the possibility of allowing Hong Kong accountants to become non-practising partners and non-resident partners of accounting firms in Guangdong. On legal services, in respect of the exploration of new mode of association between law firms of Hong Kong and the Mainland announced by the Central Government, the two sides will pursue pilot implementation of the initiative in Guangdong to allow law firms of the two places to form partnership firms so as to provide Mainland enterprises with a wider variety of legal services aligned with international standards. As for construction and related engineering services, the two sides will continue to pursue expansion of the scope of mutual recognition of professional qualifications, and allow Hong Kong professionals to register, practise and establish business operations in Guangdong on the basis of such qualifications. In addition, the two sides will explore simplified registration arrangements for Hong Kong-registered professionals to provide professional services directly in Qianhai.

Tourism Co-operation

     On tourism co-operation, to tie in with the commissioning of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong in the middle of this year, the two places will strengthen co-operation to promote cruise tourism and work together to develop the cruise tourism market with Hong Kong as the homeport. In addition, Hong Kong and Guangdong will continue to develop and promote multi-destination itineraries. Guangdong will also extend the "144-hour facilitation visa" policy for visitors to the entire province and speed up the upgrading of the relevant management system in the Guangdong Province. In respect of regulatory co-operation, the two places will continue to work together to combat practices that would infringe upon the rights and interests of tourists or disrupt market disciplines. In respect of long-term co-operation, the two sides will expedite compilation of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Regional Tourism Co-operation Development Plan to provide a foundation for deepening co-operation in the next stage, and thereby enhancing the tourism appeal of the entire region.

Cultural and creative industries

     Regarding cultural co-operation, the two sides will continue to promote cultural development in the Greater Pearl River Delta region. One of the possible areas for strengthing of co-operation is the exchange of information on cultural programmes. The Greater Pearl River Delta Cultural Information Website (Information Website), jointly developed by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao would facilitate the public to obtain information on the cultural characteristics and activities of individual regions, thereby promoting cross-region cultural activities and exchange. At present, holders of international credit cards can buy tickets for cultural events on-line by visiting the relevant ticketing webpages listed on the Information Website. To further facilitate audiences in one place to book tickets for performances in other places, ticketing service providers will be encouraged to develop, through business co-operation, a convenient one-stop ticketing service.

     Hong Kong and Guangdong share many cultural similarities, which provide a favourable environment for collaboration between the two places in the cultural and creative industries. Last year, the Central Government promulgated measures to facilitate the access of Hong Kong films in Cantonese to the Guangdong market and the release of such films simultaneously in Hong Kong and Guangdong. The two sides will expedite the pace of collaboration this year, with a view to better informing the Hong Kong film industry of the relevant policies and deepening their understanding of the Guangdong film market.

Upgrading and restructuring of Hong Kong-funded enterprises

     Promote the upgrading and restructuring of Hong Kong-funded enterprises has always been an important co-operation initiative of Hong Kong and Guangdong. In this connection, the HKSAR Government launched the $1 billion Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales (the BUD Fund) in June last year. As at the end of February this year, some 120 applications had been approved or approved with conditions under the BUD Fund, providing substantive support to Hong Kong-funded enterprises in the Mainland. The HKSAR Government will continue to maintain close contact with Guangdong to provide platforms for promoting domestic sales, and co-organise briefings for relevant policies so as to encourage these enterprises to move up the value chain.

Encouraging Guangdong enterprises to "go global" through Hong Kong

     Hong Kong, being an international city closely connected to the Mainland and enjoying unique advantages under the "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement, has a well-developed professional service sector with particular strengths in the marketing, legal and financial fields, making it a popular choice for Mainland enterprises seeking to expand their international business. As at the end of 2012, about 260 Mainland enterprises had set up regional headquarters or regional offices in Hong Kong. The Central Government also stated its support for Mainland enterprises to "go global" by leveraging Hong Kong. The two sides will step up efforts to encourage Guangdong enterprises to make use of Hong Kong as a platform to "go global", including co-organisation of promotion activities to introduce Hong Kong's investment environment to Guangdong enterprises.

Combating parallel trading activities

     Hong Kong and Guangdong are very much concerned about the impact of parallel trading activities on residents living in the vicinity of the boundary. Relevant departments of the two places have implemented a number of measures to combat smuggling activities by parallel traders. To further strengthen co-operation on this issue, the two places will establish a new mechanism to facilitate closer co-operation in anti-smuggling operations under the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference through strengthening of communication and exchange of information, and jointly taking sustainable and effective measures to combat organised parallel trading activities.

Co-operation on environmental protection

     Environmental protection is a matter of great concern to the people of Hong Kong and Guangdong. Last year, the two sides agreed on the air pollutant emission reduction plan for the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region up to 2020, including the setting of emission reduction targets for 2015 and 2020. This will serve as the basis for both sides in taking forward emission reduction efforts in the future. The focus of co-operation this year is on the implementation of pollutant reduction measures to achieve targets set for 2015.

     In addition, since last year Hong Kong and Guangdong have been exploring opportunities for co-operation in reducing vessel emissions, which is one of the major pollutant sources in the region. This initiative is supported by the Central Government. Last year, the HKSAR Government took the lead and launched an incentive scheme to reduce "port facilities and light dues" for ocean going vessels (OGVs) that switch to low sulphur fuel while berthing in Hong Kong waters. As a further step, we are preparing for the introduction of a mandatory requirement for fuel switching by OGVs at berth in Hong Kong waters. We are also working with Guangdong to complete, as soon as possible, a study on reducing vessel emissions in the Greater PRD waters. Specific reduction measures, including jointly requiring OGVs to switch to low-sulphur fuel when berthing at PRD ports, will be explored.

     The two places will continue to work together in promoting cleaner production by enterprises. The HKSAR Government has extended the Cleaner Production Partnership Programme for two years to March 2015 with an additional commitment of $50 million. Both sides have also initiated exchanges and collaboration on combating climate change. To jointly prepare for the challenges, for example, a Guangdong delegation participated in the workshop organised by the Hong Kong Environment Bureau yesterday on climate change adaptation for the financial services sector.

Medical services co-operation

     On medical services, Hong Kong and Guangdong will continue co-operation in the areas of hospital management, exchanges in science and technology, training of healthcare practitioners and so on. The two places will also continue to implement the arrangement of cross-boundary transfer services for Hong Kong patients living in Guangdong in order to assist them in seeking medical treatment in Hong Kong.

Cross-boundary infrastructure

     It is important to enhance continuously the cross-boundary infrastructure of Hong Kong and Guangdong so as to facilitate exchange and communication between the business sectors and residents of the two sides. Hong Kong and Guangdong will continue to press ahead with the implementation of various cross-boundary infrastructure projects, such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, and the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point etc.

Key co-operation areas

     Both Qianhai and Nansha made significant progress last year. Approval by the State Council in June 2012 of a number of policies to support the development of Qianhai has helped Hong Kong enterprises and professional sectors to master the opportunities that would be brought about by the development of Qianhai. After the State Council's approval of the Nansha Development Plan in September 2012, the Hong Kong/Guangzhou Co-operation Working Group held a meeting in January this year and reached a consensus to strengthen co-operation and communication in formulating supporting policies for the implementation of Nansha Development Plan.

     Looking forward, the HKSAR Government will continue to maintain a close dialogue with relevant ministries and authorities in Guangdong and Shenzhen to convey views of the Hong Kong business sector on measures for implementing the Qianhai policies and supporting policies for the implementation of the Nansha Development Plan.

Other areas

     The 2013 Work Plan covers a wide-range of areas for co-operation. In addition to the above, other areas for co-operation include logistics services, conference and exhibition services, innovation and technology, facilitation of cross-boundary clearance, electronic commerce, intellectual property, food safety, contingency management, and education.

2013 Work Plan of the Framework Agreement on Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation

     The CS, Mrs Carrie Lam, and the Vice-Governor of Guangdong Province, Ms Zhao Yufang, signed the 2013 Work Plan of the Framework Agreement after the meeting.

     HKSAR Government officials accompanying the CS in attending the meeting included the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam; the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man; the Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Ms Chang King-yiu; the Permanent Secretary for Development (Works), Mr Wai Chi-sing; the Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Ms Julia Leung; the Under Secretary for the Environment, Ms Christine Loh; and the Under Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee.

Ends/Friday, March 15, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:46


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