22 February 2017

The Government will uphold the principle of free trade, and expand the commercial and trading network through trade and investment agreements to counter rising protectionist sentiments globally.

Delivering his 2017-18 Budget today, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the Government is discussing with the Central Government how to further expand the Mainland & Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, with results expected by mid-2017.

The Government will continue its Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Georgia and the Maldives under the Belt & Road Initiative.

Mr Chan said Hong Kong has signed 19 Investment Promotion & Protection Agreements with various countries, including Canada and Chile.

"We concluded the negotiation with Mexico and initialled the draft text in January this year. Looking ahead, we will continue our efforts to negotiate the agreement with Iran and Russia."

The Government will set up a Trade Single Window, which will provide a one-stop electronic platform for trade document submission, promote cross-border customs co-operation and expedite trade declaration and customs clearance to facilitate trade.

Tax concessions will be offered to attract aircraft leasing companies to develop their businesses in Hong Kong, creating job opportunities for both the financial and aviation industries.

To burnish Hong Kong's status as an air cargo hub, the Airport Authority and the logistics industry are striving to enhance Hong Kong International Airport's capacity to handle high-value temperature-controlled goods including pharmaceuticals to boost their transhipment via Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing is exploring how to further develop Hong Kong's listing platform to enhance competitiveness.

The second batch of the Silver Bond will be issued in 2017-18.

Mr Chan said the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation has started a feasibility study on the proposal to set up a public annuity scheme as announced in the Policy Address.

"The Chief Executive announced that the Government will explore whether we can have life annuity plans to be run by the public sector, so as to help the elderly turn their assets into a stable monthly retirement income to reduce uncertainty.

 

"The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation will furnish a report to its Board of Directors for consideration as soon as possible."

Mr Chan also proposed extending the profits tax exemption to onshore privately-offered open-ended fund companies to attract more funds to domicile in Hong Kong.

"The proposal will build up Hong Kong’s fund manufacturing capabilities. The Financial Services & the Treasury Bureau will shortly consult the industry on the legislative proposals."

Mr Chan added the Government has implemented various measures since last year to tackle malpractices by financial intermediaries on money lending.

"These include imposing additional licensing conditions on all money lender licences in accordance with the Money Lenders Ordinance for better protection of borrowers. The additional licensing conditions came into effect on December 1. We are taking actions to seriously follow up on the implementation and effectiveness of the additional licensing conditions, as well as to enhance public education to raise people's awareness of debt management.”

The Government has striven to establish overseas Economic & Trade Offices to tap new markets for the local commercial sector. The 12th office was set up in Indonesia last year, with one in Korea to open soon.

Preparation work is underway to establish offices in India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Chan said the Government will continue to work with the Central Government and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for early completion of the procedures for Hong Kong's accession to the bank as a non-sovereign territory.

Mr Chan added the Hong Kong Monetary Authority's Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office was set up last year to promote Hong Kong as an infrastructure investment and financing centre.

"The office is tasked to pool a cluster of key stakeholders in various fields and enhance their knowledge and interest in investing in infrastructure and related projects."