Leaders in the key Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) enthusiastically welcomed the 30-strong Hong Kong delegation led by Chief Executive Mr John Lee and organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), underlining the city’s role to connect them with the world.
Hub to hub
Following the eight-day outreach mission earlier this month, HKTDC Executive Director Ms Margaret Fong, who visited the Gulf states along with HKTDC Chairman Dr Peter K N Lam, said the tour offered a chance for hub-to-hub contact, saying Hong Kong connected the rest of the world with Mainland China and Asia in general. Many Hong Kong enterprises similarly regard the UAE as well placed as a hub for the Middle East and North Africa. Saudi Arabia, with its strong market, was also growing into this role.
“Hong Kong is not just back but is the same place that you remember, as the connectivity point and that is the role of Hong Kong we have always been a bridge between the east and west and between China and the rest of the world and increasingly between Asia and the rest of the world,” Ms Fong said.
“We are now open we want to tell people we are ready and in addition to all the important trade events or other business events or major sporting events. We want to go out and tell them: ‘Yes, Hong Kong is ready and want you to come and visit and look at the new developments’.”
She pointed out that Hong Kong had been very busy during the three-year pause in travel.
When you visit a city it is also about the vibrancy, the dynamism of the place and in the three years when we have not been able to travel, look at the cultural side, all the developments whether the opening of the M+ Museum or the Palace Museum, completion of the third runway for the airport there are a lot of things going on. When we tell people about these, they are very excited and say 'we must come'!”
Ms Fong said Saudi Arabia and UAE, which like most Persian Gulf economies traditionally relied on oil and gas revenues, were seeking to diversify. This presented opportunities for Hong Kong businesses with their strength in financial services and professional services, along with a wider range of services such as those related to infrastructure, smart city and green infrastructure which will be increasingly important.
The increasing flow of investment and trade between the Middle East and Asia, especially Mainland China, would also create demand for legal and dispute resolution services.
International financial centre Hong Kong and could help Middle Eastern economies diversify financially through increasing use of the renminbi use, offering more rmb denominated financial products.
“All the countries are also looking into fintech, where Hong Kong is strong,” Ms Fong said. Environment, social and governance (ESG) and green finance were also important issues for the Gulf states.
The host countries were also diversifying geographically, she pointed out. Both Saudi Arabia and UAE had long focused their efforts in international relations chiefly on western countries, especially the United States and Europe. To shift their focus eastwards, they needed a place that could provide a full range of services and networks, fields Hong Kong is strong in. When exploring this region, they need someone with good experience and extensive networks.
Ms Fong said leaders in Saudi Arabia and UAE were excited by the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as they were looking for a way to enter the gigantic market of Mainland China.
The Hong Kong delegation met with senior representatives of government, local Chambers of Commerce, including the Saudi Chinese Business Council, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Invest in Sharjah and Dubai Chambers, the last of which also announced the establishment of a Hong Kong office.
Underlining the degree of engagement the trip created, delegates signed 13 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Middle Eastern firms, organisations or government entities. These included an MOU between the HKTDC and Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The main picture shows Ms Fong (left) at the signing with Dr Lam (second left) and Mr Lee (middle).
The other MOUs included those between Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) and Saudi Tadawul Group Holding Company, which runs the Kingdom's exchange.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) and Riyadh Chamber; HKTDC and Dubai Chamber; Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks and Sharjah Research Technology & Innovation Park; Hong Kong Cyberport and Dubai Future Foundation; HKTDC and Invest in Sharjah and the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI) and Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry also exchanged MOUs.
Apart from more than 30 international trade fairs and conferences in Hong Kong, the HKTDC organises large-scale overseas mega promotions, such as Think Business, Think Hong Kong, which will be held in Thailand in July to promote the Hong Kong brand together with the Hong Kong family of organisations, telling the good stories about Hong Kong in line with the official Hello Hong Kong! Campaign.