(GRAPHIC BY ALEX TANG)
HONG KONG – Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday launched a three-day visit to Singapore and Thailand to further negotiate free-trade agreements and strengthen economic ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members.
This is Lam’s first overseas visit since her inauguration as CE.
ASEAN is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner. To further enhance Hong Kong-ASEAN ties in trade and investment, the two sides had been promoting negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) for years, Lam said.
The FTA will hopefully be announced and signed before the end of this year, she added.
Lam will stay in Singapore until Thursday evening to meet senior Singapore government officials, attend a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and visit facilities including an innovation lab for digital services, the government said.
She will then leave for Bangkok, Thailand, where she will meet senior government officials and business leaders as well as officials from other ASEAN countries.
Lam will also visit Beijing and Shanghai this month for the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Shanghai, as well as Hangzhou to appreciate its development as a smart city and Tianjin to support Hong Kong athletes at the 13th National Games.
Lam also addressed Hong Kong’s housing supply on Wednesday, saying the Development Bureau will set up a task force comprising non-official professionals as soon as September and carry out a major social debate on land-supply sources.
An ownership-oriented housing policy would also be included in the upcoming Policy Address, Lam said.
She is also optimistic about re-opening of the so-called Civic Square in front of the East Wing of the government complex, which the previous administration closed for security reasons after rounds of massive protests.
Lam said the government is now working on security and other relevant issues and will come up with a plan within three months.
She summed up the administration’s progress one month after assuming office by saying the new special administrative region government had completed the legal process to implement the HK$5 billion increase in annual education funding, announced the plan for co-location of border controls at the West Kowloon Terminus of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, and visited frontline healthcare workers.
Furthermore, Lam said, government officials had held more than 20 internal meetings with the Legislative Council, more than 10 media gatherings and in excess of 100 media interviews.
The upcoming policy address is currently under consultation.