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No pain, no gain

Two days ago, just before I concluded my visit to Beijing, I told the press that the SAR Government attaches great importance to economic development, and that only when our economy grows at a high and sustainable rate does the Government have sufficient financial resources, with employers able to pay their employees and Hong Kong people able to earn higher incomes. And only then can we solve together the long-standing, deep-seated problems in the community in areas such as housing, poverty, the ageing population and environmental protection. That's why the Government places great emphasis on our trade and economic ties with the Mainland and the international community.

In Beijing, I, together with two bureau secretaries, met with the Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Minister of Commerce. We made notable progress in the following six areas.

First, the SAR Government will support the NDRC's interim review of the implementation of the 12th Five-Year Plan over the past two years with a view to improving its implementation in the coming two years. The SAR Government will listen to the views of the sectors concerned in the course of the review.

Second, as proposed in my Manifesto and Policy Address, a joint working group will be set up soon as a new mechanism for the implementation of CEPA. The joint working group will meet in June and is expected to be conducive to more effective implementation of CEPA.

Third, the NDRC has agreed to the participation of the SAR Government in the preliminary work on the formulation of the 13th Five-Year Plan, so that the finalised plan will better meet Hong Kong's development needs.

Fourth, endorsement has been given to a proposal put forward by Hong Kong and Guangdong for achieving liberalisation of trade in services in Guangdong in 2014. This is quite an important decision, and we must work towards this goal in a timely manner.

Fifth, as outward investment from the Mainland continues to increase and reaches new heights, Hong Kong will play a more prominent role in facilitating and supporting the investment of Mainland enterprises in foreign countries by leveraging the strengths of our internationalised professional and financial services.

Sixth, the "early and pilot measures" approach will be extended beyond
Guangdong to all eight provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the Pan-Pearl River Delta region.

Progress in the above six areas will give significant impetus to Hong Kong's economic development.

Two days ago, I found some time between official appointments to visit the Beijing Office of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. This is a major office set up in Beijing by one of the Hong Kong's professional bodies. During the visit, I learnt about the experiences of Hong Kong accountants based in Beijing and listened to their views on the support they need from the SAR Government for them to practise, work and live on the Mainland, whether in Beijing or other places.

On the same day, we also announced to the press in Beijing that Hong Kong and ASEAN had agreed to commence negotiations on a HK-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. Although the matter is not directly related to my visit to Beijing, we made the announcement that day because the timing was right and it is part of our work in fostering economic and trade ties with foreign countries. ASEAN is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world and is Hong Kong's second largest partner for trade in goods, and fourth largest for trade in services. We will consult with stakeholders to better gauge their business needs in trade with ASEAN countries, and will endeavour to complete relevant bilateral negotiations as soon as possible. Our country fully supports closer co-operation between Hong Kong and ASEAN. As a separate customs territory, Hong Kong conducts such negotiations on its own, but in doing so the incumbent SAR Government will capitalise on the advantages of "Two Systems", i.e. our status as a separate customs territory, and "One Country", i.e. the global influence of the Central Government, including the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There is still much to be done. I will soon visit Beijing again with the Principal Officials concerned to press on with our work. As the saying goes, "no pain, no gain" - which applies equally to the business sector and the officials of the SAR Government in promoting the commercial and trade development of Hong Kong.

April 28, 2013