Trade between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong is expected to pick up speed in the coming years with the further implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) and the economic integration between the two areas.
These are predictions of Chen Xing, director of the Department of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs of the Ministry of Commerce, who spoke yesterday at an anti-dumping seminar held by Federation of Hong Kong Industries in Hong Kong.
"The trade (between the mainland and Hong Kong) has been growing at a blistering pace of more than 20 per cent (in the past years)," she said, adding such a momentum is expected to continue.
In 2005, trade value between mainland and Hong Kong amounted to US$136.7 billion, reflecting a year-on-year increase of 21.3 per cent and accounting for 9.6 per cent of mainland's total external trade. Hong Kong remains the mainland's fourth-largest trade partner.
Chen partly attributed the increase to the CEPA, a free trade pact-analogue signed in 2003 and implemented in 2004, saying it "has witnessed a favourable prospect." Under the agreement, products with Hong Kong origins can be exported to the mainland without tariffs.
A total of HK$3.7 billion (US$474 million) worth of Hong Kong goods was exported to the mainland by February 10, saving HK$240 million (US$31 million) in tariffs, Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Henry Tang said in his budget speech last Wednesday.
As for investment, Hong Kong continues to be the largest overseas source of funds for the mainland, Chen said.
Hong Kong's contractual investment in the mainland amounted to US$63.23 billion in 2005, up 26.12 per cent year-on-year. That shows the mainland's attraction to Hong Kong businesspeople.
Mainland enterprises, at the same time, view Hong Kong as their springboard to the world's market, Chen said.
In 2005, 253 mainland companies were set up in the city, involving a share capital of US$1.6 billion and accounting for about 40 per cent of the mainland's overseas investment.
In terms of renminbi (RMB) services under the CEPA, Chen said, almost all the retail banks in Hong Kong were providing RMB deposit, withdrawal, exchange and remittance services.
The total RMB deposit in Hong Kong reached 22.3 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) by the end of last year, she added.
The cumulative value of spending and cash withdrawals using RMB debit and credit cards in Hong Kong amounted to HK$9.4 billion (US$1.21 billion).
Hong Kong economists said the CEPA is a booster of two-way trade and economic integration.
"The arrangement offers new business opportunities for Hong Kong enterprises, garment and watch manufacturers in particular. Professionals in finance and legal consultant fields will be the biggest beneficiary," said Andes Cheng, associate director from Hong Kong-based South China Research Ltd.
Hong Kong industries would benefit if the central government opens the financial markets wider to local investors who want to build Hong Kong into an offshore centre of RMB businesses.
According to Henry Tang, Hong Kong is discussing with the central authorities a yuan-dominated debt issuance system in the city, which would widen the types of RMB services available in the city.
Also, local industries are calling for an early introduction of China Depository Receipt mechanism in the mainland, which could allow Hong Kong companies to list in the mainland.
Source: China Daily