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Hong Kong is extra entrepreneurial, open and various than Singapore, finance chief Paul Chan tells US companies


Hong Kong is more entrepreneurial, open and diverse than Singapore, the city’s finance chief has told US business leaders during his visit to the country as he looks to lure companies eyeing expansion to mainland China and North Asia markets.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po also witnessed the signing of a deal between the Hong Kong government arm dedicated to attracting investment and a United States business association to promote bilateral trade between the city and the San Francisco Bay Area at a lunch on Tuesday.

Chan assured attendees at the first function during his visit to San Francisco that the “one country, two systems” governing principle was “still alive” and “working very well”, hours after Hong Kong police made their first arrests under the domestic national security law enacted two months ago.

Addressing competition with Singapore and questions from US firms about expanding in the region, he said: “Hong Kong is a lot more entrepreneurial. When it comes to the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, I think you’ll find it more interesting … Hong Kong is [also] more open and diverse. On lifestyle, Hong Kong is a lot more interesting too.

“Come talk to us. Depending on the scale of the investment, the size of operation, the stage of the technology that you’re bringing, we can tailor-make specific packages for you.”

He said the city was an ideal destination for businesses planning to expand into North Asia and the mainland, citing the connectivity that allowed travellers to reach more than half of the world’s population within five hours’ flight time.

Chan also highlighted the strengths of Hong Kong’s stock market, touting its advantages over Singapore’s, which he described as being “no comparison in terms of depth and breadth”.

The market capitalisation of companies listed on Hong Kong’s stock exchange stood at HK$32.1 trillion, compared with HK$7.4 trillion on Singapore’s bourse. But the city state has a larger economy that is considered more diversified.

Chan made his remarks a day after he met Zhang Jianmin, consul general of China in San Francisco. They discussed US-China relations and collaboration between both bay areas, according to the Hong Kong government.

The lunch event was co-organised by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco and the Bay Area Council, a California-based business association with more than 300 member companies. It was held in the dining hall of a luxury hotel in downtown San Francisco.

Attendees included about 100 representatives from California-based businesses, start-ups and trade associations, but no US officials were present.

In his speech, titled “Hong Kong’s New Chapter: Empowering Growth through Innovation and Sustainability”, Chan said Hong Kong remained attractive as “a springboard” for accessing the mainland and Asian markets.

“Coming to Hong Kong, on one hand you will have convenience and sometimes priority access to the mainland,” he said. “At the same time, from there, your international character and your international facets will be preserved. Talent, goods and data are movable.”

The memorandum of understanding signed between InvestHK and the Bay Area Council covered joint promotion investment with a focus on green finance and sustainable development.

Earlier in the day, Chan’s delegation exchanged views with five Hong Kong start-ups that were undergoing training in Silicon Valley.

Officials after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (from left): finance chief Paul Chan, InvestHK director general of investment promotion Alpha Lau; Bay Area Council COO John Grubb; and Bay Area Council China Initiative Committee co-chair Kevin Xu. Photo: Natalie Wong

San Francisco and Berkeley were the final destinations of the first joint delegation composed of senior officials from Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province to promote business opportunities in the Greater Bay Area.

The bay area is a plan by Beijing to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into a hi-tech economic powerhouse by 2035.

The joint delegation, which concluded a four-day visit in Paris before heading to the US, will stay in California until Friday to attend the US-China High-Level Event on Subnational Climate Action. It is also expected to take part in the Bay to Bay Dialogue event with Californian businesses.

The visit is Chan’s second to San Francisco in six months, after he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November last year on behalf of city leader John Lee Ka-chiu.

Lee, who is sanctioned by the US, at the time cited a scheduling clash and turned down the invitation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met his US counterpart, Joe Biden, during the summit, with both sides agreeing to work together to cooperate on risks posed by artificial intelligence.

Before their meeting, California Governor Gavin Newsom visited the mainland and made a brief stop in Hong Kong as part of a week-long trip last October, partly to “advance climate action”, according to his office.

The San Francisco Bay Area has reigned as a global hub for technological innovation, notable for the vast number of tech giants headquartered there, including Apple, Google and Facebook.

The Hong Kong delegation’s lobbying efforts come as the mainland also seeks foreign investment to revitalise its sluggish economy, which has been hampered by weak business confidence, partly due to a property market downturn.



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