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US executive urges Hong Kong to step up efforts to promote Greater Bay Area

US executive urges Hong Kong to step up efforts to promote Greater Bay Area
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US executive urges Hong Kong to step up efforts to counter negative narratives, says American business community not well aware of Greater Bay Area blueprint

The American business community does not know enough about China’s development blueprint for the Greater Bay Area, an executive of a San Francisco association has said, adding that some even believe that Hong Kong has lost its autonomy.

Alex Foard, senior director of the California-based Bay Area Council, on Tuesday urged the city’s authorities to be more proactive in their promotion drive, saying these efforts could allow entrepreneurs to capture opportunities in the region and counter negative narratives about Hong Kong.

At a business lunch in San Francisco co-hosted by the council and the Hong Kong’s Economic and Trade Office and attended by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, the Post asked 10 attendees – among about 100 California-based entrepreneurs and business representatives – whether they were aware of the Greater Bay Area plan.

Alex Foard, senior director of Bay Area Council, says more can be done for people to understand how they can take advantage of the Guangdong and Hong Kong markets. Photo: Natalie Wong

Only two people said they had knowledge of the national blueprint that the central and Hong Kong governments had been eager to promote.

Under the ambitious plan introduced a decade ago, Beijing aims to build a hi-tech powerhouse by 2035 by economically integrating Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province in southern China.

“I think that the depth of understanding of what the Greater Bay Area is and how the different cities play a role in that economy, is something that is not well understood in the US,” Foard said.

“What Shenzhen is, what Guangdong is, what Hong Kong is, and how they all interplay in this Greater Bay … If you ask a lot of folks, they do not necessarily even understand the relationship.

“I think education-wise, a lot more could be done, so that people understand how they can take advantage of the Guangdong and Hong Kong markets.”

A think tank under the council had researched potential areas for synergies between the two bay areas in China and San Francisco and concluded that fintech, clean energy and healthcare could be fields to focus on.

Yet, it also mentioned that the Beijing-imposed national security law raised “significant issues regarding Hong Kong’s long-term future”.

The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area is known for being home to tech giants such as Apple, Google and Facebook in Silicon Valley.

Among the attendees who had not heard of the Greater Bay Area was Ken Ung, a member of the Hong Kong Association of Northern California.

He said he was not aware of how the different legal systems, tax regimes and currencies in mainland China and Hong Kong could complement each other under the bay area framework.

“Our concept was still traditional, with Hong Kong being the focus,” said Ung, who founded Xteam Design and Construction in California.

JP Singh, president of California-based Omega Medicine & Tool, says he is keen on exploring business opportunities elsewhere. Photo: Natalie Wong

Ron Rowlett, director of public relations and government affairs of Nor Cal Carpenters Union, also expressed unfamiliarity with the concept, as his business activities were primarily conducted in Canada and the United States.

JP Singh, president of California-based Omega Medicine & Tool, said businesses in the US in general were experiencing a slowdown akin to “a recession” this quarter.

Singh, who has bases in Hong Kong and on the mainland, said he was keen on exploring business opportunities elsewhere.

Foard said part of the American business community was aware of the political changes in Hong Kong, referring to the protests in 2019 and the separate implementation of the two national security laws in 2020 and two months ago.

Some built a perception that Hong Kong had “lost autonomy” and “was no longer what it was prior to the protests”.

He said overseas campaigns could be conducted by Hong Kong authorities to dispel misunderstandings and change the negative narrative.

“Things get to be done in a way that is believable. You do not run around telling everybody we’re free. Right? Because it sounds like you’re not,” he said.

“You have to tell everybody that we have all these cool conferences happening here. You have fun and the lifestyle is great.”

Finance chief Chan, at the Tuesday event, reassured business representatives in San Francisco that Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” governing principle was “still alive” and “working very well”.

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