Celebrating two new years just a month apart, Hong Kong is always awash with comments about the coming year in January and February and 2024 is no exception. This year two words appear in every comment: “change” and “uncertainty”.
The Financial Secretary of Hong Kong SAR emphasised how the city is tackling both issues when he addressed two key global financial events last month – the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland and the Hong Kong Trade Development's Asian Financial Forum at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
At Davos, Mr Chan told a keynote seminar organised by a Mainland financial media agency that Hong Kong had developed new strengths in the changing world. He pointed out that four major global trends were reshaping the world economic order.
These were a breakup of the geopolitical order, with countries and groups of countries going their own way. The rise of emerging economies, led by China along with developing Asia and the Middle East, was also a leading driver of change, along with the global green transformation, technological changes and the development of digital economy.
These global trends gave Hong Kong – with its unique advantages under one country, two systems – bright prospects and would play an even more pivotal role as a bridge connecting the mainland with international markets and investors.
The Hong Kong SAR Government was pressing ahead with developing the eight centres as outlined in the 14th Five-Year Plan. In particular, the Government was promoting development of financial services and innovation and technology as dual engines of Hong Kong's growth, driving economic development towards a high-quality direction, and to bring more diversified and quality employment opportunities to the public.
Mr Chan again tackled the issues of global fragmentation and sustainable development at the first Keynote Luncheon during AFF.
"Over the past few decades, the power of free trade and competition under a rules-based multilateral system has been nothing short of remarkable. The flow of goods and capital has unleashed immense productivity worldwide," he pointed out.
"That's why Hong Kong stands firm against protectionism and roadblocks to trade and investment. We are firmly committed to multilateralism, to free trade, and to reducing trade barriers."
On sustainable growth, he said: "We are all well-positioned to support climate action and green transition in the Asian region and around the world. Massive funding is needed for green transformation, with estimates suggesting that more than US$66 trillion will be required in Asia alone over the next three decades.
"As an international financial centre, we are Asia's leader in green investment and financing. A few figures make that clear: in 2022, total green and sustainable debt arranged in Hong Kong, including bonds and loans, rose over 40%, year on year, to more than US$80 billion. Our bond volume captured about one-third of the entire Asian market. At the end of September, Hong Kong was home to more than 200 authorised ESG funds, with total assets under management of about US$160 billion, up 28% year on year."
Underlining Hong Kong’s efforts to engage with economies around the world, the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Government of the Republic of Croatia signed a Comprehensive Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, which will further promote economic and trade ties between Hong Kong and Croatia, and bring the bilateral relations to a new level.
The Financial Services Development Council of Hong Kong and the Financial Sector Development Program of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen collaboration and enhance connectivity between the financial markets in the two places.Reflecting the AFF theme, Multilateral Cooperation for a Shared Tomorrow, Mr Chan showed how Hong Kong was working with a wide range of economies across the globe to adopt innovative, sustainable solutions to the problems facing the world.