Interview: Gregory So
As the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) nears its formation, how would you assess Hong Kong’s economic cooperation with ASEAN members?
GREGORY SO: As the AEC approaches implementation, it is only natural for Hong Kong to strengthen its economic ties with ASEAN. The AEC is a populous market characterised by increasing consumption power, improving living standards and an expanding middle class. ASEAN is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner in goods and fourth-largest in services. Pooling the comparative advantages of different ASEAN member states together would certainly lead to greater synergy and allow more efficient use of resources in the AEC.
Hong Kong looks forward to the formation of the single market and production base in good time. Given our strong relationship with ASEAN, we will strive to secure a robust partnership and closer economic integration with the AEC. In doing so, we will be able to make the best use of the strengths from both sides, and join hands to grasp the opportunities brought by the dynamic landscape now faced by the global economy. To this end, ASEAN and Hong Kong have agreed to pursue a free trade agreement, which we hope will be concluded and implemented as soon as possible.
What sectors of Myanmar’s economy are likely to bolster trade with Hong Kong in the next few years?
SO: The growth in bilateral trade between Hong Kong and Myanmar in recent years has been encouraging. There is room to develop closer and stronger economic and trade cooperation between Hong Kong and Myanmar, given the latter’s ongoing regulatory reform, huge development potential, ample investment opportunities, rich and diverse topography, abundant natural resources, young population and strategic location, among other things. As for which sectors are most attractive, I believe the main focus for the moment would be manufacturing and infrastructure development. We hope that as Myanmar’s economy develops we can find more opportunities in services as well.
What characteristics are attracting Hong Kong investors to Myanmar’s manufacturing sector?
SO: Hong Kong’s business community has been keen to invest in Myanmar for a long time. In December 2013 Hong Kong and Myanmar concluded an investment promotion and protection agreement to enhance two-way investment flows. Myanmar is currently undertaking broad-based reforms, and its economic agenda will need to address complex, long-term problems to unlock the country’s full potential. It has implemented many policies to facilitate foreign investment, including a new law on special economic zones, allowing exemptions from Customs duties and taxes on raw materials in certain areas. An enabling environment for business will also include policy consistency, transparency, stability, human capital development, production technology and skills, and infrastructure. Greater competitiveness and further work to address trade barriers will also help in attracting foreign investment.
How can Hong Kong’s laws on intellectual property (IP) be used as an example for the development of emerging economies in the region?
SO: The IP legislative regime in Hong Kong stems from 1874, when our trademark registry commenced operations. Since 1912, our laws have also provided for copyright protection. Hong Kong is a founding member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and fully complies with its obligations under the WTO-TRIPS agreement. Major international treaties on IP have also been applied to Hong Kong. Apart from fully incorporating the applicable international standards into our laws, we have developed our domestic IP system to suit local circumstances. In doing so, our laws in many respects exceed the minimum international standards, protecting a variety of IP rights including trademarks, copyright, patents, designs, layout designs of integrated circuits, plant varieties and trade secrets. We also regularly review and update these laws to ensure that they accommodate the changing needs of society.
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