GBA rule of law action plan released

Multilateral co-operation crucial

The two-day 17th Asian Financial Forum (AFF) concluded successfully on Thursday (January 25). AFF is Hong Kong's annual flagship event and a key event for the region's financial community. The forum this year, which returned to a fully physical format for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, gathered officials, representatives of multilateral organisations, and financial and business leaders from all over the world at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, kicking off the series of mega events in Hong Kong this year.


AFF is co-organised by the Financial Services & the Treasury Bureau and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). Let me review the highlights and features of this year's forum.


Exploring Key Topics


The theme of this year's AFF, “Multilateral Cooperation for a Shared Tomorrow”, was chosen in response to the volatile and rapidly changing world, elevated geopolitical tensions, and high risks of economic decoupling. AFF provided a platform for participants to explore how to rekindle multilateral co-operation, guide the world towards sustainable development, and achieve a future of mutual benefits. The forum thus invited Prof Jeffrey D. Sachs, President of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, to share insights on how responsible capitalism can shape a new blueprint for sustainable development. Prof Douglas W. Diamond, the Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences in 2022 and a professor of finance, also provided alerts about the trends of geopolitical tensions and global economic fragmentation. I also personally moderated two plenary sessions on multilateral co-operation, which was joined by finance ministers from various countries and management of multilateral institutions, to have effective exchanges on facilitating co-operation and promoting sustainable development.


AFF has always been known for its diverse and in-depth discussions. This year’s forum included high-level topics such as international financial co-operation and promoting economic resilience, as well as discussions on specific subjects such as renminbi internationalisation and opportunities in the Mainland. It encompassed subjects such as global economic outlook and investment trends, while also addressing hot topics like green and sustainable finance, and fintech. I am delighted that AFF attracted over 140 distinguished speakers who shared their insightful analysis and perspectives.


Facilitating Exchanges


In addition to discussing how to promote co-operation, the forum also provided a platform to promote substantive collaboration by allowing more than 3,600 participants from over 50 countries or regions to get to know each other, exchange ideas and seek opportunities for co-operation. Personally, I am very happy to have the opportunity to reunite with officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Middle East and Europe, with whom I have developed connections during my duty visits. This opportunity allowed me to engage with them on world, regional and bilateral issues as well as to share first-hand information about the current situation in Hong Kong.


In addition, two important documents were signed at AFF, including the Comprehensive Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government & the government of Croatia, and the memorandum of understanding between the Financial Services Development Council of Hong Kong & the Financial Sector Development Program of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, serving as new avenues for strengthening co-operation and enhancing connectivity.


Making Good Use of Hong Kong’s Advantages


AFF effectively leveraged Hong Kong’s characteristics as a super connector, bringing together businesses and capital from around the world and providing them with commercial and investment opportunities. In particular, AFF featured the InnoVenture Salon and FintechHK Startup Salon, where startups showcased their innovative ideas. Additionally, the AFF Deal-making arranged over 700 one-on-one meetings over two days, successfully connecting investors with projects owners.


At the same time, we and the HKTDC made good use of the opportunity - that participants from diverse sectors gathered for the forum - to tell the good story of Hong Kong and showcase Hong Kong’s vibrant colours. This year, AFF arranged with multiple partnering organisations special experiential activities for participants, including free admission to the Hong Kong Palace Museum, tour of Hong Kong aboard an open-top sightseeing bus or Hong Kong's iconic red-sail junk boat, dining discounts, guided tours, etc to show them Hong Kong’s culture and vibrancy. I also took up the role of a host and invited Dilma Rousseff, President of the New Development Bank, to a local cha chaan teng in Wan Chai to savour authentic Hong Kong cuisine.


National Support for Hong Kong


One of the highlights of this year’s AFF is that Minister of the National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA) Li Yunze came in person and delivered special remarks. Minister Li pointed out that the NFRA will continue to strengthen bilateral regulatory co-operation with Hong Kong, promote higher-level opening up to Hong Kong and Macau under the framework of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, and fully support Hong Kong to leverage its unique advantages under the “one country, two systems” principle, so as to continuously reinforce and enhance Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre. The initiatives include further deepening the connectivity between the financial markets in the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau; enhancing the opening up of the Mainland's banking and insurance sectors to Hong Kong and Macau; supporting Hong Kong in consolidating its role as a global offshore renminbi business hub; and supporting Chinese financial institutions to anchor in serving the Hong Kong market.


Minister Li’s presences clearly demonstrated the support of our country for Hong Kong’s development, buttressing our efforts in consolidating Hong Kong’s position as an international financial centre. We will continuously enhance the competitiveness of the financial services industry, while further deepening financial co-operation with the Mainland and actively integrating into the national development of the reforming and opening up of the financial market.


To Conclude


The longstanding success of AFF can be attributed to Hong Kong’s unique advantage as a super connector and a super value-adder. As Minister Li said at the forum, “as an international financial centre where East meets West and charm abounds, Hong Kong will definitely develop greater vitality and competitiveness, further contributing to prosperous development of the Asian regions.” We will certainly make true Minister Li’s kind words and encouragement, maximise utilisation of Hong Kong’s advantages, actively integrate into the overall national development, and contribute to the development of the region and the world.


Regarding the successful organisation of AFF, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the co-organiser, HKTDC, for their professional performance, to the partnering organisations for their wholehearted support, and to friends from all over the world for their active participation. It is thanks to all of you that the forum has achieved such great success. I eagerly look forward to the arrival of the next edition of the forum.


Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my early Chinese New Year greetings to everyone. May this year bring prosperity in business, good health, and smooth sailing in all endeavours.


Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Christopher Hui wrote this article and posted it on his blog on January 29.