BEIJING – Closer economic ties between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong may help offset the impact of a decline in world growth, which has been dragged down by debt crises in Europe and the United States, experts said on Monday.
“As the debt crises threatens to drag down global economic growth, the mainland and Hong Kong need to promote the implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) to ensure sustainable growth for both sides,” said Zhang Li, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce.
Worries about slow world economic growth rose following Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the US’s credit rating. CEPA, a free trade agreement between the two sides signed in 2003, offers preferential market access for Hong Kong products and companies to enter the mainland market.
The arrangement includes the removal of tariffs on trade goods and has created an effective platform to promote investment and trade between the two sides.
By the end of 2010, $308 million in tariffs had been saved on goods worth $3.57 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Hong Kong is the fifth largest trading partner and the third largest export market of the mainland. Trade volume between the two surged 35 percent year-on-year to $134.4 billion in the first half of 2011.
“According to the mainland’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the mainland will further open its service industry, also a sector in which Hong Kong companies have great strengths and opportunities,” said Zhang.
Many mainland small- and medium-sized enterprises are struggling to overcome financing bottlenecks, so Hong Kong’s financial institutions can exploit new ways for cooperation such as launching more financial products for them, she said.
The opening-up of the mainland market to Hong Kong financial institutions is the most effective sector for the implementation of the CEPA, Jiang Yaoping, vice-minister of commerce, said in July.
The mainland has adopted more than 30 preferential measures in areas such as banks, securities and insurance in the seven supplementary agreements to CEPA containing further preferential policies for Hong Kong.
Those measures not merely helped the Hong Kong financial industry gain more space for development and strengthen Hong Kong’s position as a international financial center, but also boosted the mainland financial industry, he said.