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Close Hong Kong-Singapore ties will get stronger

Hong Kong's longstanding reputation for being one of the best links between Mainland China and the rest of the world has been enhanced as the city becomes a super-connector for the Belt and Road Initiative.

HONG Kong and Singapore have many elements that can complement each other and this is evident in the ties between the two cities over the years. First among these must be their roles as springboards to their respective hinterlands.

Singapore is located at the heart of Asean and Hong Kong's longstanding reputation for being one of the best links between Mainland China and the rest of the world has been enhanced as the city becomes a super-connector for the Belt and Road Initiative, China's massive global scale infrastructure development policy.

"The National 13th Five-Year Plan and the Belt and Road Initiative of China will add impetus to Hong Kong's future economic development," said Bruno Luk, director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in Singapore.

The national development plan will see Hong Kong strengthen its status as an international financial, transportation, trade, and legal and dispute resolution centre, and enhance its super-connector role in China's economic development and opening up to the world.

This far-reaching policy will have a wide-ranging impact on the region as China reaches outwards with both investments and trade. Hong Kong and Singapore both have key roles to play in this - the former as the financial base where the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has been set up and the latter as the centre within Asean from where companies can control their operations.

"Indeed, the relationship between Hong Kong and Asean has never been closer," said Mr Luk. He noted that as the value of bilateral merchandise trade has grown by a cumulative 72 per cent over the past 10 years, Asean is now Hong Kong's second largest trading partner.

In particular, Singapore ranked first in terms of trade in goods with Hong Kong among the 10 Asean member states last year and the city-state is also Hong Kong's fifth largest trading partner, third largest market for domestic exports, eighth largest market for re-exports, and third largest source of imports.

Reciprocally, Hong Kong is Singapore's fifth largest trading partner and second largest export market.

"We certainly hope to take the regional cooperation to a higher level. After around three years of negotiations, we would love to conclude and sign the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Asean within this year," said Mr Luk.

Other areas of collaboration between Singapore and Hong Kong are on the cultural front. Artists from both cities have frequent exchanges and there are many platforms where they come together to showcase their respective talents or collaborate on works.

"Singapore and Hong Kong artistic collaborations span across many genres. The opportunity would not only tap the common ground of peoples and cultures of both places but also the differences. Arts and culture, alongside with trade and business, are areas where tradition meets modernity, because we are both very cosmopolitan cities," he noted.

HKETO's Singapore office, set up in 1995, is the older of the HKSAR's two representative offices in Asean. It aims to enhance understanding and strengthen bilateral relations between Hong Kong and six of the 10 Asean member countries, namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's ties to Asean through Singapore are set to grow even stronger after the establishment last year of a second HKETO office - in Jakarta. The success of the Asean Internship Scheme for Hong Kong Higher Education Students, initiated by the HKETO in Singapore, has spurred it to keep building closer ties with Asean on all fronts, in particular to support the Central Government's Belt and Road Initiative.

"We cherish built-up connections, integrations and growing opportunities between Hong Kong and Asean member states on economic, trade and cultural fronts over the past years and in the years to come," said Mr Luk.

He noted that the HKSAR's 20th anniversary theme "Together • Progress • Opportunity" is equally applicable to Hong Kong's growing relationship with Asean member states as it has been keeping close ties with Asean member countries, while the region is full of opportunities for development.

"Looking forward, Hong Kong will continue to develop closer relationships with Asean member countries. Together, we progress and seize every opportunity to contribute to the development of the Asean region," he concluded.