In a fast-changing world the Middle East has become an economic hot-spot with many fast-growing economies which are rapidly diversifying beyond their traditional reliance on energy exports.
Hong Kong is adapting to these changes by reaching out to leading Middle Eastern economies, with the city’s Chief Executive Mr John Lee leading a delegation of business leaders from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and principal government officials. The delegation’s first stop was Riyadh, where they explored collaboration opportunities with the business community of Saudi Arabia.
Over the past two days, the delegation discussed with Saudi government and industry leaders how Hong Kong can facilitate the Kingdom’s strategic development via its role as a global financial hub and China’s international gateway.
Riyadh was the first of three stops on this week-long mission to the Middle East, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).
The 30-strong delegation includes senior executives from Hong Kong’s financial institutions and regulator as well as major players in innovation and technology (I&T), sustainability and smart city solutions.
At a press conference followed by an investment forum and dinner officiated by the Saudi Minister of Investment HE Khalid Al-Falih and attended by some 300 Saudi Arabian guests on Sunday, Chief Executive Mr John Lee, said: “Saudi Arabia is a strong economy of the Gulf region and a growing source of foreign direct investment. Driven by Vision 2030, the dynamic blueprint for the future, Saudi Arabia is destined to take its place as an economic powerhouse built on diversity, sustainability, and innovation and technology. Hong Kong has long been the Asia-Pacific region’s multi-level bridge for foreign and Mainland Chinese businesses and investors. As our integration with the Mainland continues to deepen, so, too, do the opportunities for Hong Kong – and the economies and companies that work with Hong Kong.”
Mr Lee was joined by three officials: Deputy Secretary of Justice Mr Horace Cheung, Secretary for Financial Services and Treasury Mr Christopher Hui and Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Mr Algernon Yau.
At the investment forum, HE Khalid Al-Falih said: “This visit comes on the heels of numerous historic visits between our two countries starting with the visit of President Xi Jinping in 2016 following which the ties between the two countries deepened. Through this collaboration we aim at further developing various sectors whether it be asset management, private equity, wealth management – or in fintech, which saw an exponential growth of 79% between 2021 and 2022.”
He added: “Saudi Arabia has the largest regulated capital markets in the region, with the largest stock exchange in the [Middle East-North Africa] region. Due to evolving trends we are also making efforts to strengthen global supply chains and have launched a dedicated global supply chain resilience initiative. This will be a great opportunity for China and Hong Kong-based companies to use the [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] as a platform for adding value to products customised for the Middle East region and beyond.”
Belt and Road
HKTD Chairman Dr Peter K N Lam said, “Saudi Arabia has an important role to play in the global economy, similar to China. And as a global financial hub, China’s international gateway and a commercial hub for the Belt and Road Initiative, Hong Kong can facilitate opportunities to help drive development initiatives around the world. We are pleased to organise a delegation of Hong Kong business leaders to come and discuss collaboration opportunities – not only in our traditional sectors of finance and trade, but also in new areas in tech and innovation, smart city and sustainability solutions. Creating opportunities has been the work of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for over 55 years, and I am hopeful that we can continue to help Hong Kong businesses play a part in the exciting growth of Saudi Arabia and the regional overall.”
Other business leaders from Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia also exchanged views at the investment forum on Sunday.
Additionally, at the press conference, Mr Darryl Chan, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s financial regulator, as well as Dr Sunny Chai, Chairman of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Federation of Hong Kong Industries, and Mrs Betty Yuen, Chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, represented various sectors in Hong Kong, including finance, technology and smart city and sustainability development as well as business and professional services.
The delegation met key enterprises in Riyadh to exchange ideas and learn more about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. They visited major institutions, such as the Saudi Stock Exchange and the NEOM exhibition (main picture).
Several Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) were signed at the Investment Forum.
The delegation travelled to Abu Dhabi on Monday evening and then onwards to Dubai, to meet with senior government and business leaders of the United Arab Emirates.