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Wednesday, December 7, 2016, 00:06

Great opportunities await HK’s SMEs to ride on B&R strategy

By Willa Wu
Great opportunities await HK’s SMEs to ride on B&R strategy
Centr al in Hong Kong — home to various headquarters of companies from across the globe. More local small- and medium-sized enterprises are urged to jump on the bandwagon of the Belt and Road Initiative in the light of Hong Kong’s position as a gateway in the Chinese mainland’s economic liberalization process. ( Parker Zheng / C hina D aily)

The head of the Belt and Road (B&R) Office in Hong Kong on Tuesday urged local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to get involved in the B&R Initiative – and to seize the many business opportunities it will offer.

The office, inaugurated four months ago, has pledged to link Hong Kong with the latest developments from countries and regions along B&R routes. It also wants to equip Hong Kong companies with the necessary knowledge to take full advantage of the national strategy. The grand vision was first mooted by President Xi Jinping in 2013.

More local small- and medium-sized enterprises are urged to jump on the bandwagon of the Belt and Road Initiative

“Many think that the B&R Initiative only concerns large-scale infrastructure projects. It goes beyond that,” said Yvonne Choi Ying-pik.

She made the comments on Tuesday at the first media gathering since her appointment as commissioner for Belt and Road on a non-remunerative basis.

She cited the example of a local asphalt company which has actively participated in the initiative and become a pioneer for other local SMEs.

Serving as a connector, the office plans to coordinate with different government departments, statutory bodies such as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, and academic institutions in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland. They will work together on Belt and Road projects and actively liaise with the authorities in charge of implementing the initiative.

Choi said her office will hold an internal meeting every two to three weeks. The results of these will be directly reported to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

From first-hand experience over the past four months, Choi said she was convinced that future business opportunities were abundant.

She said the key to seizing these opportunities was to be open-minded.

“From my previous business trips to the B&R economies, I noticed that there is a great need for management skills at airports and harbors – which is a strong suit of Hong Kong.”

Language barriers are a typical challenge enterprises will face when expanding to new markets. For example, languages like Arabic and Turkish may be spoken. But few people learn these languages in Hong Kong, except for those on a few courses offered at the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Choi suggested Hong Kong companies hire mainland graduates who have studied these languages. This is because such study programs are more common on the mainland, she explained.

The B&R Initiative, spreading across more than 60 countries and regions, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This is a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

Zhang Dejiang, the country’s top legislator who oversees Hong Kong and Macao affairs, praised Hong Kong’s advantages in maritime, inland and air transport.

During his three-day visit to the city in May, Zhang said the city served as an important gateway in the mainland’s economic liberalization process.

Choi will attend the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable Luncheon on Wednesday (today). She will join Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and influential business leaders to discuss Hong Kong’s super-connector role under the B&R Initiative.

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