Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates are both gateways to and connection hubs for large, fast-growing regions – Mainland China and the Persian Gulf respectively.
With Hong Kong’s unrivalled access to the mainland and Asia and the UAE’s role as a gateway to the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and European markets, the relationship between the two commercial centres is already providing important benefits to a range of businesses.
Collaboration on technology
Hong Kong Chief Executive Mr John Lee and principal officials led a delegation of business leaders from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on a visit organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). The delegation was in the UAE this week to strengthen existing business ties and develop new areas of collaboration in technology, sustainability and smart city development, in addition to traditional sectors of finance and trade. The rapport-building tour started in Saudi Arabia at the weekend.
The important strategic relationships, which exist between China and the UAE, are based on a shared backing for liberal trade policies, investment in cutting-edge technology, low tax regimes and backing for pro-business regulation.
At a press conference on Wednesday Mr Lee said: “The UAE is Hong Kong’s largest trading partner in the Middle East region. We treasure this long-standing relationship, and I believe that we can now take it to a higher level. That’s why I’m here, together with these business leaders from Hong Kong – some 30 strong – to tell you that our business and investment doors are wide open and welcoming for UAE companies and investors. For a world of opportunities.
“The commercial and political ties between Hong Kong and the UAE are growing ever stronger. It is clear we both approach business in the same way, backing innovation, investing in technology and looking for sustainable solutions. This business mission to the UAE shows the depth of existing commercial relationships and the potential to do a lot more.”
In response, HE Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi stressed the strength and durability of strategic relations between the UAE and People's Republic of China, which develop continuously, especially in the areas of economics and trade. The forward-looking and visionary leadership of the two countries is building a strong partnership, opening new opportunities and broadening bilateral economic cooperation.
His Excellency added: “Strengthening investment and trade partnerships with Hong Kong supports the strategic cooperation between the UAE and China and contributes to opening new business fields, stimulating communication between the Emirati-Chinese business communities, especially in light of new economic opportunities.”
He continued: “The value of foreign trade between the UAE and Hong Kong amounted to about Aed32 billion (US$8.7 billion) during the first 9 months of 2022, achieving a growth of 36% compared to the same period in 2021, while Hong Kong was among the top 10 trading partners for the UAE during 2021, with a contribution of more than 2% of the UAE's total non-oil trade.”
His Excellency indicated that the forum represented an important step in supporting increased trade and enhancing prospects for bilateral cooperation in a wide range of sectors, especially shipping, logistics, the service sector and air transport. It maximises benefits for Emirati companies and their counterparts in Hong Kong.
HKTDC Chairman Dr Peter K N Lam said: “Dubai and Hong Kong are natural partners, when it comes to creating business opportunities. The signing of three MoUs at our event tonight shows the tremendous potential for deeper collaboration. Creating business opportunities has been the work of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for over 55 years, and I am pleased to be part of these exciting times.”
Top trading partner
Representing the business community in Dubai, HE Abdul-Aziz Abdulla Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chambers, commented: “I am proud to say that the UAE is the largest trading partner for Hong Kong in the Middle East. Non-oil trade between the UAE and Hong Kong reached Aed22.2 billion in the first half of 2022, registering 16.2% growth compared to the first half of 2021. With the presence of our new international office in Hong Kong, I look forward to seeing continued collaboration with our Hong Kong counterparts and seeing the relationship between our countries thrive and prosper even more.”
Business leaders from Hong Kong and the Emirates also exchanged views at a panel discussion on Wednesday. Chaired by Mr Yau, panel speakers included Mr Nicolas Aguzin, Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, Dr Sunny Chai, Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries and Chairman of the Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), Mr Horace Cheung, and HE Hussain Al Mahmoudi, Chief Executive Officer of Sharjah Research Technology & Innovation Park (SRTIP) and HE Faisal Juma Khalfan Belhoul, Vice Chairman of Dubai International Chamber.
Total exports from Hong Kong to the UAE last year were HK$95 billion (US$12.1 billion), 66% of which were telecommunications equipment and parts. Pearls, precious and semi-precious stones were the second largest component, at HK$11.7 billion or 12.3%. Imports from the UAE to Hong Kong were Underlining the UAE's role as a leading jewellery trade centre, nearly 70% of imports were jewellery related. Imports into Hong Kong from the UAE were HK$31.9 billion. Pearls, precious and semi-precious stones accounted for HK$12.1 billion or 38.1% of imports and jewellery for HK$10.1 billion or 31.7%. Catering for the industry, the HKTDC Hong Kong International Jewellery Show runs from 1 to 5 March.