Hong Kong: Visit by Lord Mayor – January 2014
British Consulate General Hong Kong
Opening of China’s capital account will mean more asset management business for Hong Kong and London. Secretary for Justice offers support for UK law firms looking to access the Mainland China market through Hong Kong. Opportunities for UK companies in green finance, Islamic finance, and a range of maritime services. Largest ever Asian Financial Forum, a third of the attendees from the mainland, provides a pan-Asia platform to promote investment in the UK
RMB Internationalisation, Financial Services
The Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf met Financial Secretary John Tsang, Chairman of the Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) Laura Cha, and Deputy Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Eddie Yue. RMB volumes are good: trades for 2013 at RMB3.3trn are up 40% yoy, deposits at RMB1trn also up 40%. 90% of this activity in HK is offshore to offshore, underlining the importance of cooperation between offshore centres such as London. The HK-London Forum was seen as key to the development of new products, adding to recent RMB listings and bond issuances in the UK. FSDC membership of the Forum could facilitate product development.
London stands to benefit significantly if, as expected, Hong Kong and Beijing agree mutual recognition of funds in 2014. The capital flowing from the Mainland into Hong Kong will need to be invested and managed beyond Hong Kong’s relatively small market, with UK institutions in prime position to benefit. There was appetite to learn from our innovative green finance models. Cha was focused on exploiting Pearl River Delta market of 100 million: there was plenty of room for Shanghai in the East, however their FTZ materialised, noting continuing lack of clarity over the scope of its operation.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, meeting Hong Kong based UK law firms, was keen to work with them to help penetrate the mainland market. This was the right time to tackle barriers, including through direct engagement with mainland enterprises’ in-house counsel. Anticipating the Opening of the Legal Year, the Justice Secretary described a new “legal hub” in Hong Kong bringing together the Department of Justice, domestic and international legal / dispute resolution related organisations.
The Lord Mayor supported the Hong Kong legal community in attending the opening of the legal year; the Chief Justice underlined the importance of a fully independent judiciary.
A roundtable with ship owners and service providers identified opportunities in ship finance, ship broking, arbitration, education / training and insurance. They hoped the Lord Mayor’s autumn visit to mainland China would showcase to Chinese fleet owners the strength and breadth of UK services.
Trade and Investment
The Asia Financial Forum is Asia’s premier annual financial services conference, this year attracting over 2500 global delegates and 500 media representatives. The Lord Mayor was optimistic on the UK’s prospects: growth had been sustained in the City of London and financial/ professional services since the end of 2008. The Lord Mayor made a case for infrastructure in well-regulated markets such as the UK that are welcoming of inward investment.
At dinner with business leaders there was a welcome for the UK’s continuing commitment to infrastructure investment, including in the energy sector, citing nuclear and shale. An open and predictable regulatory environment was key to confidence. New investors should be helped to compete on a level playing field with incumbents in rail and telecommunications. More active FCA public engagement would be welcome, explaining regulation and formulating new rules with the grain of the market.
The Lord Mayor spoke to the British Chamber of Commerce on London’s strength as an unrivalled international pool of talent; its attractiveness to investors through stable, liberal policies; and its role as a western hub for offshore RMB trading. She attended a University of St. Andrews 600th anniversary celebration event, congratulating SMRU (a company wholly owned by the University) on their job protecting dolphins in the Pearl River Estuary.
The visit provided a high profile opportunity at the Asian Financial Forum to address senior business leaders. The Hong Kong Economic Journal (FT equivalent) and the South China Morning Post (the main English language broadsheet), focused on London – Hong Kong cooperation on RMB internationalisation, and the attractions of UK infrastructure investment. We further leveraged our presence at AFF through GREAT branding of that day’s Financial Times.
The opening of China’s capital account will provide unprecedented opportunities. Hong Kong will be first in line, but recognises that it will not be able to manage the capital flows by itself. With Hong Kong as a conduit for investment into other, larger markets, we are right to position London as both Hong Kong and Beijing’s chosen partner for RMB internationalisation in the west.
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