While the world has largely stepped out of the woods of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery remains fragile, given the numerous challenges we face, from daunting geopolitical tensions, to inflation, high interest rates and more.
But in trying times, it is all the more important that countries and economies work together, and remain committed to diplomacy, discussion and co-operation.
For Hong Kong, we are singularly blessed under “one country, two systems”. We remain the only place in the world where the global advantage and the China advantage come together in a single city. As an international financial centre, we have much to offer for the financial co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region and well beyond.
By serving as the bridge between the Mainland and the rest of the world, connecting the capital markets and investors on both sides, we are bound to create more opportunities and benefits for countries and economies in the region and the world.
Allow me to briefly talk about a few of Hong Kong’s visions and promises.
Enhancing our fundraising platform
First, Hong Kong will enhance our role as a world class fundraising platform. With the advantages of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has brought together the world’s top financial institutions and talent. Our professional services are strong and competitive. Free capital flow and a robust financial system have created a deep pool of capital in the city.
Indeed, Hong Kong’s stock market is blessed with deep liquidity. At the end of December last year, our capitalisation reached US$4.6 trillion. That is 13 times our gross domestic product. So is our bond market: we top the region in international bond arrangements by Asian entities.
And our Connect schemes – the mutual-access arrangements between the Mainland and Hong Kong – have helped bring together the capital markets and investors of the Mainland and the world.
Ranging from stocks to bonds and, more recently, to exchange-traded funds and swap contracts, the Connect schemes continue to grow, creating more investment options and risk-management tools for investors.
I am particularly pleased to report that, as of this past Monday, Stock Connect now includes international companies listed in Hong Kong. This would enable them to have access to both international and Mainland capital, and at the same time, broaden the choices for Mainland investors.
Changes in the international environment are presenting new opportunities. Geopolitical tensions have propelled countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Gulf region to diversify their investments to this part of the world. At the same time, they are keen to raise capital here to finance their massive plans of infrastructure and development projects.
Acting as a bridge and high-quality service platform, Hong Kong is both determined and well positioned to tap this huge market and contribute to the world’s high-quality development.
Assisting in RMB internationalisation
Equally promising is the role Hong Kong could play in assisting the internationalisation of the Renminbi in a steady and prudent manner.
As China’s economic significance on the global stage continues to rise, the use of Renminbi would be increasingly popular in both international trade and investment, and as a reserve currency.
This will create a substantial demand for Renminbi-denominated investments, and for associated risk management tools. For holders of Renminbi, Hong Kong is the best place to go. As a hub providing the deepest pool of offshore RMB liquidity and handling more than 70% of the world’s Renminbi settlements, we will continue to introduce more Renminbi-denominated investment and risk management products, and upgrade our market infrastructure at the same time.
International green tech & green fi centre
Third, Hong Kong sets its sights on developing itself into a world leader for green technology and green finance.
The global drive for green transition has created a huge demand for green projects, including innovative and technological solutions. For green financing, it is estimated that Asia would need around US$66 trillion in the coming three decades. China alone would need US$14.5 trillion in the same period.
Meanwhile, the global market for green technology is forecast to reach around US$420 billion by 2030. That is 11 times the size of 2021.
Hong Kong has what it takes to rise as a world leader in green technology (green tech) and green finance.
Hong Kong is a leader in green finance, and well positioned to help the global mission of zero emission to materialise. We are simply Asia’s first in green financing. In 2021, green and sustainable debts issued or arranged in Hong Kong reached around US$57 billion, topping Asia. That figure had leaped further in 2022. Deep liquidity aside, the market covered a diversified investor base and project categories. Last month, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government issued a tokenised green bond, the first of its kind released anywhere in the world by a government.
On green tech, the prospect of Hong Kong is also promising. More than 100 green tech companies and startups operate out of Science Park and Cyberport. Some of them are using innovative and cutting-edge technologies in their projects, and have won international recognition and investments. And the Greater Bay Area is also home to many pioneers in green technology. In short, we have a strong and vibrant ecosystem in green tech.
Hong Kong’s ultimate goal is to bring together the green technology sector and green financing so that they can reinforce each other and support a vibrant, integrated and dynamic green industry cluster with a complete value chain.
We are quickly spurring development to that end. This will include a few directions.
First, we will build a green technology ecosystem to attract top-notch enterprises or startups to set up their operations in Hong Kong. We will also encourage commercialisation of research and development outcomes and boost demand for green technology.
Second, we will continue to develop and innovate to make available more efficient and competitive green financing.
Third, promoting green certification, green standard setting and converging Mainland standards with international standards.
Fourth, nurturing talent through training locals as well as attracting those from all over the world.
And finally, enhancing collaboration with the bay area and the international markets.
In a changing world, with our country’s steadfast support, Hong Kong’s future as an international financial centre remains strong, sure and enviably secure. We are proud to continue to contribute to better financial collaboration in Asia Pacific and beyond, bring economies and people closer together, and create value, benefits and prosperity for all.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan gave these remarks at the Asia Pacific Financial Forum 2023 on March 18.