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Tenth anniversary of CEPA

Tomorrow will mark the 10th anniversary of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA).

Since the promulgation of the main text of CEPA in 2003, I, as Chairman of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services, have been paying close attention to the implementation of CEPA in the Mainland, especially in areas in which professional services are concerned.

Over the past decade, the country has further opened its market to Hong Kong's professional services under CEPA to different extents, offering our professionals more opportunities for development in the Mainland.

This short period of 10 years saw rapid development of our professional services sector in the Mainland, which has now become the sector's biggest market outside Hong Kong. For some professions, fee revenues are higher in the Mainland than in Hong Kong. The implementation of CEPA and the supplements signed in the ensuing years has not only helped our professional services sector explore new horizons, but also benefited other major industries in Hong Kong, including finance, trade and industry and tourism. Making full and better use of CEPA is indeed essential to Hong Kong's economic development.

Twelve days ago (June 18), the Joint Working Group under CEPA, advocated in my manifesto, held its first meeting in Guangzhou to explore ways to enhance the mechanism for the implementation of CEPA. The Joint Working Group comprises representatives of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, six central ministries and seven departments of Guangdong Province. The Joint Working Group will provide targeted assistance in sectors which face relatively more entry barriers, and help to resolve CEPA implementation problems encountered in individual provinces and municipalities.

At its first meeting, members of the Joint Working Group agreed that the market access conditions will be further relaxed for six Hong Kong professional services sectors, namely film, accounting, architectural, estate surveying and valuation, property management and medical, to provide them with more development opportunities in the Mainland. Moreover, the National 12th Five-Year Plan provides for the full implementation of CEPA, particularly through the "early and pilot implementation" approach in Guangdong Province. The target is to give Hong Kong professional services full access to the Guangdong market by 2014.

Over the past 10 years, the country has given Hong Kong preferential treatment through various policy measures under CEPA, thus creating valuable employment and investment opportunities for our professional services and other sectors. These favourable measures are the envy of many countries eyeing the Mainland market.

As early as the dawn of China's reform and opening up over three decades ago, some local professionals started to go to the Mainland to volunteer their services. That was how people in the Mainland found out the strengths of our privately-run professional services. Today, the Mainland is the biggest external market for our professional services and other sectors.

Recently, people have asked from time to time about the nature of the relationship between Hong Kong and the country. I think that CEPA sheds light on an important aspect of this relationship.

June 30, 2013