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Ninth Structured Dialogue expands ties between HKSAR and European Union (with photo)

     The ninth annual Structured Dialogue meeting between the European Union (EU) and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSARG) took place today (November 26) in Hong Kong. The Structured Dialogue meeting is an effective high-level platform for the EU and the HKSARG to discuss issues of common interest based on a mutually agreed agenda.

     The meeting was co-chaired by the Deputy Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Commerce and Industry) of the HKSARG, Ms Carol Yuen, and the Acting Managing Director for Asia and Pacific of the European External Action Service, Mr Ugo Astuto. The two sides conducted discussions on a wide range of subjects and identified areas for further co-operation.

     The Head of the HKSARG delegation, Ms Yuen, welcomed the EU delegation headed by Mr Astuto to Hong Kong. She noted that the economic and trade relations between Hong Kong and the EU continue to be strong and close. The EU has remained the second largest trading partner of Hong Kong, with trade amounting to around HK$650 billion (about 63 billion Euros) in 2014. The EU is also the third largest source of foreign direct investment in Hong Kong, while Hong Kong is one of the top 10 investors in the EU.

     "The Structured Dialogue continues to act as an effective platform for both Hong Kong and the EU to yield fruitful exchanges in various areas of common interest. Both sides explored ways to deepen co-operation and enhance mutual understanding for the benefit of Hong Kong and the EU. We look forward to working more closely with the EU on areas such as trade and commerce, intellectual property trading and protection, financial services, youth exchange and collaborative research. We welcome the European Commission's new Trade and Investment Strategy and that the EU would explore launching negotiations on investment with Hong Kong," Ms Yuen said.

     Mr Astuto stressed that the EU and Hong Kong are important trade and investment partners. "Hong Kong will continue to play a key role as a regional hub for EU companies and investors. Hong Kong's freedoms, rule of law and transparency are its major assets, and the EU continues to follow developments in Hong Kong in these areas. The EU is ready to deepen its bilateral exchanges with Hong Kong aimed at facilitating and developing trade in goods and services and boosting investment flows. We look forward to further enhancing our close economic and trade relations with Hong Kong and exploring the idea of launching investment agreement negotiations. We also agreed to strengthen co-operation in important areas such as financial services, competition policy, customs affairs, and intellectual property rights. We are also eager to co-operate with Hong Kong in the development of the green economy and in the fight against climate change," Mr Astuto said.

     During the meeting, both sides provided general updates on developments in their economies, including the free trade agreements and investment promotion and protection agreements. The Hong Kong side updated the EU on its latest developments in the financial services sector, such as the development of offshore Renminbi business, the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the progress of the regulatory reform for auditors of public interest entities and the mutual recognition of funds scheme between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The EU was also kept abreast of Hong Kong's latest progress in implementing the international standard on automatic exchange of financial account information in tax matters, the latest developments of amendments to intellectual property legislation, the upcoming full implementation of the Competition Ordinance and the legislative amendments to the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance. Both sides also exchanged views on a number of regulatory matters, including food safety and environmental issues.

     The EU side explained that the economic recovery in Europe is under way. Growth has returned in 27 out of 28 member states, fiscal positions have improved across the board and business confidence is rising. In addition, the Investment Plan for Europe, aimed at channelling more than 300 billion Euros of investment into the real economy, will soon be operational. The Plan is open to participation by third countries and jurisdictions, and Hong Kong was invited to consider looking into the good investment opportunities under the Plan.

     The EU updated Hong Kong on developments regarding financial regulation, including the creation of the Banking Union/Single Resolution Mechanism. The EU provided information on a number of European trade and investment initiatives, such as negotiations on an investment agreement with the Mainland, trade and investment agreement negotiations with the US and Japan and the renewed focus on Asia, as spelt out in the New EU Trade and Investment Strategy, unveiled this October. Furthermore, the EU updated Hong Kong on the latest initiatives aimed at completing the Single Market (e.g. the Capital Markets Union, the Energy Union and the Digital Single Market).

     Ms Yuen reiterated that Hong Kong would enhance co-operation with the EU on areas of common interest to promote economic growth in both Hong Kong and the EU. Hong Kong would continue to provide an open and business-friendly environment and remain to be an effective connector linking trading partners from the EU to not only the Mainland, but also to markets across Asia and along the "Belt and Road".

     Both sides welcomed the recent launch, on November 18, of the ground-breaking European Commission/Research Grants Council Collaboration Scheme. The Research Grants Council of Hong Kong and the European Commission will be co-operating to support Hong Kong researchers' participation in the EU's large Research and Innovation Programme called Horizon 2020.

     The HKSARG and the EU agreed to maintain close contact through different established channels and looked forward to more exchanges through the next round of the Structured Dialogue. Both sides also reaffirmed their commitment to free trade, with the common objective of making the upcoming 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2015 a success.

Ends/Thursday, November 26, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:02


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