Thursday, 21 Jun 2012
Hong Kong: Lord Green's Visit - June 2012
British Consulate General Hong Kong
Lord Green’s visit conveys well-received key messages to wide business (and media) audiences about the UK’s growth strategy; and its openness to foreign investment (including sovereign wealth funds). Much interest in making even greater use of Hong Kong‘s connectivity with the mainland and its open business environment to help UK SME’s access mainland China; and attracting outward Chinese investment to the UK.
At a lunch jointly organised by the Consulate General, the HK Trade Development Council (TDC) and the British Chamber of Commerce, Lord Green spoke on the UK’s strategy for growth, and the rebalancing of the economy towards exporting and manufacturing. He stressed the benefits the UK was seeing – including in the manufacturing sector – from its unparalleled openness to foreign investment. The audience of over 150 included senior business figures, such as the Chairman of the Stock Exchange, and China Investment Corporation’s Hong Kong Chairman. A lively Q&A session focused on practical ways in which UK and HK companies could work together to exploit opportunities in Europe and in Mainland China. The Minister and TDC Chair Jack So discussed the possibility of a “Canton Fair” type event in the UK, with Hong Kong companies presenting to UK companies prospects for business partnerships in Hong Kong and on the Mainland. There was considerable media interest in the speech, with wide coverage (14 articles in 10 publications) covering the mainstream English and Cantonese press and on-line media.
At the former Kai Tak airport, one of five HVO opportunities in Hong Kong, Lord Green was joined by representatives of MACE, Arup, Buro Happold and Gammon for a briefing on plans for the three-phase development of this £10 Bn project. This site – three times the size of Canary Wharf, and including the development of a second central business district – presents huge opportunities for UK companies. A particular focus was on plans for a three-venue sports facility. The Minister highlighted UK expertise in this area, drawing on the example of the Olympic venues built on time and to budget.
Financial Secretary John Tsang and Lord Green exchanged views on the euro zone crisis and the economic outlook in China and Hong Kong. Tsang noted that Hong Kong’s growth had slowed significantly in the last year and was “lucky” not to have registered a quarter of negative growth; he also raised fears over inflation; but was broadly positive about the prospects for the mainland economy. Lord Green underlined HMG’s commitment to staying the course on fiscal consolidation and pointed to signs that despite the poor growth performance, our strategy to rebalance toward trade was beginning to bear fruit. He noted that Hong Kong remains a vital gateway to China for UK businesses and both sides committed to work together to promote the opportunities to UK SMEs in particular. Both sides welcomed the first UK-Hong Kong RMB Forum that had taken place in Hong Kong the previous week.Tsang spoke warmly of the Chancellor’s speech at this year’s Asian Financial Forum and extended an invitation to Lord Green to speak at next year’s Forum.
Over dinner Lord Green met investors (including next generation business leaders) with diverse interests in the UK. The Minister spoke of the underlying strength of the UK economy, with the policies of fiscal responsibility and promotion of growth through trade leading to a necessary rebalancing of economic activity. Discussion focused on the new imperative for Mainland China companies to internationalise, and how companies in Hong Kong could assist in channelling this outward investment toward the UK.
A well-received speech highlighted the progress made on re-balancing the UK economy, the prospects for growth, and the essential role played by Hong Kong in the UK’s prosperity agenda, including in relation to mainland China business trade and investment interests. The Hong Kong business community saw a itself as having a clear role in assisting Mainland China companies to invest in Britain. Media coverage focused on London-HK partnership in internationalisation of the RMB, prospects for the euro zone, and infrastructure investment in the UK. The visit to the HVO highlighted UK company capabilities in design, build and operation of sporting facilities.
A number of interlocutors expressed appreciation for the high level of interest and engagement shown by UK ministers, including Lord Green.
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