BRI summit to promote and tap business potential

Government, business gurus to share thoughts on investment in initiative-linked countries and what Bay Area can offer. Oswald Chan reports.

The fourth Belt and Road Summit, due to be held in Hong Kong on Sept 11 and 12, will focus on promoting and tapping business opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative.

About 80 government officials, business leaders and representatives of international organizations from Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and BRI countries have been invited as guest speakers.

The summit, jointly organized by the HKSAR government and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, will have three plenary sessions offering in-depth analyses concerning investment in the BRI countries.

BRI summit to promote and tap business potential

Government officials from BRI nations will analyze policy directions from an economic development perspective at the first plenary session, while guest speakers will share their insights during the second session on how to promote the BRI and create more business opportunities leveraging on the advantages of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Capitalizing on Hong Kong’s status as a global financial center, the third plenary session will cover financial services, green finance and risk management.

The BRI is a global development strategy unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013 with the visions and action plan released in 2015. More than 100 countries are involved in the initiative with over 60 BRI nations through various forms of cooperation.

During the five years since the BRI was mooted, China had signed 118 cooperation agreements with 103 countries, regions and international organizations. It had also inked or upgraded five free trade pacts with 13 BRI countries by August last year.

Policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds are the five main goals of the BRI blueprint.

Identified BRI countries make up about 65 percent of the global population, 40 percent of gross domestic products, three quarters of resources, and one-quarter of trade in goods and services worldwide.

Morgan Stanley expects China’s overall investments under the initiative to reach $1.2 trillion to $1.3 trillion by 2027.

Four breakout sessions

Apart from the key plenary sessions, the summit will co-organize four major breakout sessions with various government departments and statutory bodies to deal with different aspects involving BRI investments.

A breakout session with the Insurance Authority of Hong Kong will invite experts from the insurance industry to share their views on how asset, default and political and sovereign risks can be mitigated through risk transfer and project finance solutions that can enhance the commercial viability of projects.

In terms of finance, HSBC and PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that BRI projects would require up to $5 trillion to $6 trillion in financing over the next 15 years.

The second breakout session, co-organized with Hong Kong Cyberport Management Co, will focus on technological innovation and explore the development of the Digital Silk Road.

With the assistance of the Department of Justice of the HKSAR government, legal experts will explain how to resolve disputes through arbitration and help drive sustainable investment and ensure greater success for BRI projects.

InvestHK – the HKSAR government’s direct investment promotion agency – will invite young entrepreneurs to share their experiences and views on how new entrepreneurs can grasp opportunities arising from the BRI.

Total trade between China and BRI countries between 2013 and 2018 had exceeded $6 trillion, with an annual average growth rate of 4 percent. So far, 82 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones have been set up in these countries, with total investments of $28.9 billion, according to the State Council Information Office (SCIO).

Pitch and match meetings

Besides plenary and breakout sessions, there will be numerous project pitching and one-to-one business matching meetings on the sidelines of the summit.

This year, urban development, energy, natural resources and public utilities, as well as transport and logistics infrastructure, are the three main themes of project pitching. The commercial feasibility of more than 100 projects will also be discussed during the business matching meetings.

The two-day summit will also showcase these global investment zone to connect investors, project owners and professional investment consultants. Up to 70 exhibitors from the Asia Pacific region, the Chinese mainland, Europe, the Middle East and Africa will host exhibitions highlighting their respective investment environments and featuring some 40 services sectors that will focus on banking and finance, technology and innovation, infrastructure and professional services.

As of October last year, Chinese enterprises had committed new investments worth $11.9 billion in 55 BRI countries – a year-on-year increase of 6.4 percent – according to the SCIO.

The two-day summit is the highlight of the annual Belt and Road Week to promote and encourage different sectors to get to know more about the initiative.

Xi reaffirmed China’s commitment to globalization and free trade in May 2017 by promising to invest $124 billion in the BRI countries.