In my Policy Address, there are a series of initiatives designed to attract strategic businesses and talents to Hong Kong, to sectors central to our future. They include life and health technology, artificial intelligence and data science, financial technology, advanced manufacturing, new energy technology and more.
Aside from the novel Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises to be led by the Financial Secretary, and the new $30 billion Co-Investment Fund to support high-value business proposals, we are making attractive offerings available to the right companies. Incentives cover financing, land and tax, together with tailor-made facilitation plans on visas and child education that can make a difference for them and for Hong Kong.
We are trawling, too, for talented young professionals. That includes working graduates from the global top 100 universities or anybody earning $2.5 million a year.
And for non-local graduates of universities in Hong Kong, we will extend their stay to two years, and expand the offer to include graduates of Hong Kong universities with campuses in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). The employment visas under our talent admission schemes could become valid for up to three years.
We will also establish a Talents Service Unit. Working with the Immigration Department, the unit will streamline and fast-track applications received under our talent admission schemes.
We want to make it as easy as possible for international and Mainland companies, and talented professionals from around the world, to look to Hong Kong for their future.
I am equally interested to talk to you today, about the innovative companies and smart professionals that are right here, right now, in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is determined to do everything possible to help you build your future in Hong Kong, too.
That begins with our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the heart and soul of Hong Kong’s business and trade. The SME Export Marketing Fund has helped around 54,000 companies and 400,000 employees since it was launched in 2001. My Policy Address has pledged to boost the fund, raising the funding ceiling, per company, from $0.8 million to $1 million. The scope of this fund now covers local exhibitions, whether in person or online. This initiative will stay in place until June 2026.
The Policy Address also upgrades the BUD Fund – the Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading & Domestic Sales. The fund’s ceiling, per company, will rise from $6 million to $7 million, helping SMEs sharpen their competitiveness and develop diversified markets.
The Hong Kong SAR Government is keen to help Hong Kong businesses in every way we can. That includes creating new connections and strengthening existing ones. In September, Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Algernon Yau visited Cambodia to attend the sixth ASEAN Economic Ministers-Hong Kong, China Consultation meeting and promote Hong Kong business in Cambodia and throughout the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
Secretary Yau also reviewed the progress of Hong Kong’s free trade agreements (FTAs) with ASEAN. Designed to boost the high levels of trade and investment, The ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement and related Investment Agreement entered into force in February last year.
To date, Hong Kong has signed eight FTAs with 20 economies, as well as 22 investment agreements with 31 overseas economies. We will continue to pursue opportunities with economies throughout the region and around the world.
It helps that we can count on our 14 overseas ETOs and 16 offices and liaison units in the Mainland. Add the external offices of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) and Invest Hong Kong, and Hong Kong’s global promotion network extends to 65 cities covering 128 countries. Each and every office, each and every day, busy promoting to the world the business and investment opportunities of Hong Kong.
During his Cambodia visit, Secretary Yau discussed Hong Kong’s early accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, the world’s largest FTA.
Hong Kong formally requested accession to the RCEP in January, when the RCEP entered into force for most of its member economies. ASEAN’s 10 member states are all members of the RCEP, and they welcomed Hong Kong’s request for early accession. We will step up the liaison efforts on every front to proactively seek our stakeholders’ support to Hong Kong’s early accession.
Hong Kong will add significant value to the RCEP, given our status as one of the world’s leading financial centres. Given, too, our exceptional role as the business bridge between the Mainland and the rest of the world.
I will make those points, and many more, next week, during my visit to Bangkok for this year’s APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. The annual gathering brings together 21 member economies of APEC – the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
These and other external promotions will allow us to tell the world the good stories of Hong Kong, to showcase our remarkable resilience, our distinctive advantages and our unwavering commitment to trade and economic co-operation at every level.
That, of course, includes the GBA and its 86 million consumers. Hong Kong will be a central player in the GBA – in financial and professional services, in trade and transport, in innovation and technology (I&T) and much more.
Our Guangdong Economic & Trade Office (ETO) is setting up a dedicated promotion centre to support Hong Kong businesses in the GBA. The TDC will soon offer its GoGBA Business Support Centres in each of the GBA’s nine Mainland cities.
We are keen to help business find opportunity in the GBA. It will take time, but it is beginning to happen in such areas as construction, legal services and insurance.
In the coming year, we will build mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters, and enable the convergence of legal practices between Hong Kong and other GBA cities. An online mediation centre will be established to encourage interaction between the businesses and the people of Hong Kong and other cities in the GBA.
On the topic of mediation, I am pleased to share with you the latest development of this burgeoning sector. With the strong support of our country, the International Organization for Mediation Preparatory Office will be established in Hong Kong. The office will arrange for the establishment of the Inter-governmental Organization, which will provide friendly, flexible, economical and efficient mediation services for international disputes.
This landmark decision of choosing Hong Kong as the location for the preparatory office is clearly a vote of confidence by relevant states in our strengths as an international legal and dispute resolution services centre.
As for insurance, we are working to create after-sales service centres in the GBA, a step towards the mutual access of insurance markets in the region. Similarly, we’re liaising with Mainland authorities to make available more Hong Kong-registered drugs and medical devices in the GBA. That means support for Hong Kong people living and working in the GBA. It means businesses, too.
Enhancing the cross-boundary flow of goods and cargo is a priority of our Customs & Excise Department. Its Single E-Lock Scheme reduces repeated inspection by Guangdong and Hong Kong customs services on the same shipment between them. We now have more than 60 clearance points in Guangdong under the scheme, 49 of which cover the nine GBA cities in the Mainland.
And Hong Kong enjoys mutual recognition agreements with 13 economies, giving accredited traders reduced and prioritised customs clearance in Hong Kong. Customs & Excise will continue to develop mutual recognition agreements to create new opportunities, and markets, for traders from Hong Kong and the economies and companies that work with Hong Kong.
Reindustrialisation is a key plank in the realisation of our I&T future. I announced in my Policy Address that we will create the position of Commissioner for Industry. The commissioner will be dedicated to the creation of the reindustrialisation strategy and to helping our manufacturing companies upgrade and transform through I&T.
We are also considering the building of a second Advanced Manufacturing Centre, and we will subsidise additional smart production lines under the Reindustrialisation Funding Scheme. In addition, I have set a target to double our advanced manufacturing floor area at InnoParks from 100,000 sq m to more than 200,000 sq m by 2027.
In my Policy Address, I have pledged $10 billion to launch, next year, a Research, Academic & Industry Sectors One-plus Scheme. It will fund at least 100 university research teams with clear promise to become startups. The point here is encouraging collaboration among our industry, academic and research sectors in the commercialisation of home-grown research and development.
Speaking of home-grown, education is the sure way to building a rich and rewarding pool of talented I&T professionals. We are on it, with plans in place to boost Hong Kong education in STEAM, that is science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics, as you know.
By the 2024-25 school year, at least 75% of our publicly funded schools will offer enriched coding education at the upper primary level, together with artificial intelligence and other I&T elements at the junior secondary level. Over the next five years, 35% of students at our UGC (University Grants Committee)-funded universities will be studying STEAM subjects. We will also boost the number of publicly funded research postgraduate places at our universities by nearly 30%, from about 5,600 now to 7,200 within the next two years.
That is just a taste of what is to come in bringing I&T to Hong Kong, to our education, to our youth, and to your business future.
Life, to be sure, is bigger than I&T. Bigger even than business. And we’re working to give Hong Kong that bigger life, too.
We have embraced our country’s support of Hong Kong as an East-meets-West Centre for International Cultural Exchange.
We are establishing a Mega Arts & Cultural Events Fund. Among other things, it will see to the staging of more international arts and cultural events here.
We are launching a 10-year development blueprint for arts and cultural facilities, with major enhancement and development plans for everything from the number of Hong Kong museums to the number of seats at our performance venues.
We will promote our pop culture to the world, getting the distinctive music, and message, out via movies, TV and streaming platforms. An annual Pop Culture Festival will also be established. Speaking of festivals, the GBA Culture & Arts Festival will debut in 2024, together with an annual Hong Kong Week, a Chinese Opera Festival and plenty more cultural gatherings to entertain, enrich and educate.
It is much the same with sports and leisure, including a 10-year development blueprint. We will add about 30 diversified facilities, in phases, featuring sports centres, swimming pools, sports grounds and parks.
We are also developing a Round-the-Island Trail. Some 60km in all, it will connect our Hong Kong Island waterfront promenades and, soon enough, attract a world of walkers. Now that is a future I cannot wait to wander into.
I have got much more to tell you, but I think that will wait for another day.
Chief Executive John Lee gave these remarks at the Joint Business Community Luncheon on November 9.