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SCED speaks to the media on Belt and Road Initiative
     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, at a media session on the Belt and Road Initiative after attending the Belt and Road Summit today (September 11):

Reporter: Mr Yau, what are the remaining steps to be taken in the next three more months until the end of this year when you are hoping to sign that deal (the agreement with the National Development and Reform Commission). What are the remaining steps and challenges?

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development: It is in fact the beginning of a new step, because in the past two years, we have seen the Belt and Road Initiative turning from vision into action. Hong Kong should spare no effort in riding on this fast train. The proposed signing of an agreement with the Central Government is to build a platform, where we can demonstrate areas that Hong Kong is good at, particularly among enterprises and professional services that can contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative, through the agreement itself and the working dialogues with the various ministries. We hope this agreement would set out more clearly areas that we can contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative, and also give a pointer to enterprises or professional services in Hong Kong on the opportunities that may be given rise from the ongoing development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Reporter: Mr Yau, you mentioned in the forum that Hong Kong will give priority to countries along the Belt and Road in terms of signing new free trade agreements (FTAs). Can you explain a little bit more what do you mean by giving priority?

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development: Hong Kong attaches great importance to bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements with our trading partners. We have long been engaging like-minded countries which promote free trade and are willing to lower the trade barriers. We have so far entered into these trade agreements with a selected few, including the Mainland, some European countries, Chile and New Zealand. I have just come back from Manila announcing the conclusion of the negotiations with 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries which are our second largest trading partners through the free trade agreement. As we move on, we should be conscious of entering into future free trade agreements with countries along the Belt and Road where we see we have greater potential for bilateral trading relations. We are already embarking on negotiations with some selected countries. Obviously with the limited resources and comparative priorities, we will focus on countries and economies where we think that there will be mutual benefits. The recent conclusion of the FTA with ASEAN is a very good example.

Reporter: That changed our trading strategy. What about other trading partners, like the US, the UK and others?

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development: It is a complement to what we are doing. Hong Kong, being a founding member of the World Trade Organization, is of course constantly promoting free trade and multilateral agreements. At the same time, we also need to embark on bilateral or plurilateral arrangements where we can lower market barriers on a mutual consent basis. I believe that the Belt and Road will provide a good impetus and a pointer for the future trade agreements between Hong Kong and our partners.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Monday, September 11, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:04
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