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LCQ16: Economic activities between Hong Kong and member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations
     Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (November 22):


     The free trade agreement and the investment promotion and protection agreement signed earlier this month between Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can promote the trades in goods and services and cross-border investments between Hong Kong and the ASEAN member states, thereby benefiting the economy of Hong Kong.  Moreover, the agreements are conducive to attracting the enterprises in ASEAN member states to set up business operations in Hong Kong and enter the Mainland market, as well as facilitating Mainland enterprises to make use of Hong Kong as a springboard for developing their businesses in Southeast Asian countries.  On the other hand, the Government established an Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Singapore in 1995 and another one in Jakarta in July this year, and is planning to establish an ETO in Thailand.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the situation of cross-border investments between Hong Kong and various ASEAN member states in each of the past three years; if so, of the details, and set out in a table, by name of ASEAN member state, the numbers of enterprises, the investment amounts and the types of industries involved;

(2) whether it knows the situation of personal cross-border employment and investments between Hong Kong and various ASEAN member states in each of the past three years; if so, of the details, and set out in a table, by name of ASEAN member state, the numbers of people (together with the percentages of such numbers in the relevant totals), the investment amounts and the types of industries involved;

(3) whether it knows the number of person-times of residents of Hong Kong and various ASEAN member states visiting each other (including sightseeing and business trips) in each of the past three years;

(4) of (i) the details of the work conducted (e.g. the numbers of contacts made with the local government officials and promotional activities held to promote Hong Kong as well as the contents of such activities), and (ii) the details (e.g. the contents of the projects and the amounts involved) of the projects on which agreements reached with the local governments, by the ETO in Singapore in the past three years and by the ETO in Jakarta since its establishment; and

(5) of the details of the work to set up an ETO in Thailand (including the proposed location and the timetable for setting up the ETO); the specific division of labour among the three ETOs in Singapore, Jakarta and Thailand?



     My reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:

(1) Based on the figures provided by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), Hong Kong's outward direct investment to the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Note) and inward direct investment from ASEAN member states from 2013 to 2015 are set out in Annex 1 (Tables 1 and 2). Due to the limited sample size of the relevant survey and the need to keep confidential the information provided by individual companies, C&SD is not able to provide breakdowns for individual ASEAN member states by type of industry.
     In addition, C&SD, in collaboration with Invest Hong Kong, conducts an annual survey, the response to which is voluntary in nature, on the number of overseas and Mainland companies with business operations in Hong Kong.  The numbers of companies in Hong Kong (including regional headquarters, regional offices and local offices) with parent companies in ASEAN member states between 2015 and 2017 have been on the rise, details of which are set out in Annex 1 (Tables 3 to 5). A larger number of these companies were engaged in import/export trade, wholesale and retail, financing and banking, and professional, business and education services.  As a wide range of industries are involved, C&SD is only able to provide the top three major types of industries.

(2) The Immigration Department (ImmD) implements a series of measures to facilitate talent, professionals and entrepreneurs from outside Hong Kong to come and stay in Hong Kong. According to the information of ImmD, the number of applications for employment and investment approved under various admission schemes from nationals of ASEAN member states are set out in Annex 2.

(3) According to the information of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), visitor arrivals from individual ASEAN member states and the share of overnight visitors coming to Hong Kong for vacation or business during 2014 to 2016 are set out in Annex 3.
     Hong Kong residents departing Hong Kong are not obliged to inform the Government of their destination of travel. Therefore, we do not have statistics on Hong Kong residents visiting ASEAN member states for sightseeing or business.

(4) (i) The main roles of our overseas Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (ETOs) (except the Geneva ETO whose dedicated role is to represent Hong Kong at the World Trade Organization) are to maintain close liaison with local government officials, business associations, and the media, etc., brief them on the latest developments and strengths of Hong Kong, and encourage local enterprises to conduct business and invest in Hong Kong.  The ETOs also organise various activities to raise Hong Kong's profile and promote cultural exchange. In addition, the ETOs work closely with other Hong Kong overseas agencies, such as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and HKTB to promote Hong Kong.
     At present, the Government has two ETOs in ASEAN, namely the Singapore ETO, and the Jakarta ETO which has been set up since September 2016. The Jakarta ETO represents the Government on matters between Hong Kong and ASEAN as a whole, and enhances bilateral relations between Hong Kong and Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines.  The Singapore ETO is responsible for enhancing bilateral relations between Hong Kong and six countries, namely Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The work of the two ETOs include :
  • The two ETOs maintain close contact with government officials, the academia, chambers of commerce, the Hong Kong communities, the media, and think-tanks, etc. in countries under their purview to keep them abreast of Hong Kong's latest situation and economic developments. Over 50 workshops, exhibitions and seminars were organised to actively promote the advantages of Hong Kong, the "one country, two systems" principle, and the business opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development, etc.;
  • The two ETOs reach out to ASEAN enterprises proactively.  In the past three years, they assisted a total of 43 companies in setting up businesses in Hong Kong;
  • Since 2015, the Singapore ETO has arranged about 40 duty visits by the Chief Executive and other senior officials to the countries under its purview.  Since its establishment, the Jakarta ETO has supported around 10 similar overseas visits by senior officials. These high-level official visits and exchanges helped strengthen bilateral ties and commercial relations;
  • From time to time, the two ETOs organise and sponsor different cultural and arts events in countries under their purview to promote cultural exchange. In 2017, the Singapore ETO organised a series of events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, including sponsoring and supporting six Hong Kong arts groups to perform or organise exhibitions in Singapore. The Jakarta ETO has also hosted a number of cultural activities and receptions in countries under its purview; and
  • The Singapore ETO has been actively implementing the "ASEAN Internship Scheme for Hong Kong Higher Education Students" since 2014, which provides opportunities for Hong Kong students to experience the work culture in the ASEAN region and broaden their horizon. So far, around 600 students have been offered internship places in eight ASEAN countries. The Jakarta and Singapore ETOs will continue to promote the scheme to make available more overseas internship opportunities for Hong Kong students.

     (ii) From time to time, various government departments discuss the possibility of co-operation and signing of agreements with their partners in ASEAN. The Jakarta and Singapore ETOs will provide assistance and support as necessary. For example, the ETOs supported the negotiation of the Hong Kong-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (HK-ASEAN FTA), advocated and promoted it actively on various occasions. The HK-ASEAN FTA was signed on November 12, 2017. The ETOs will continue to support the implementation of the FTA. 

(5) ASEAN is Hong Kong's second largest trading partner with significant development potential. With the signing of the FTA between ASEAN and Hong Kong, ASEAN will be a priority target for enhancing our external relations. Therefore, we plan to set up an ETO in Bangkok, Thailand, which will be our third ETO in ASEAN. The setting up of the new ETO involves a host of arrangements, and we are discussing with the Thai Government.  Once we have agreed with the Thai Government on the detailed arrangements, we will complete the relevant work, such as finding office accommodation, as soon as possible so as to commence operation of the new ETO. We will take into consideration the geographical location of the Bangkok ETO, commercial and trade exchanges between respective ASEAN member states and Hong Kong, and their economic and trade relations with Hong Kong, etc. in reviewing the geographical coverage of the Jakarta and Singapore ETOs, and work out the division of work among the three ETOs as appropriate.

Note: The 10 ASEAN member states include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Ends/Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:39
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