30 Jan 2014

Lunch meeting: Speaker: Mr. Nicholas Kwan, Director of Research, HKTDC

We had birthday boy IPP Michael today.  President Adrian led us in singing the birthday song and presented him with a bottle of fine red wine.

Our speaker today was Mr. Nicholas Kwan, who discoursed on “What should HK SMEs know about issues related to the new Shanghai Free Trade Zone?”  Nicholas joined HKTDC as the Director of Research in May 2013. His department provides in-depth and up-to-date analysis and advice on economic and trade issues, covering key industries and services in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and most major and emerging markets. Nicholas has 35-years of experience of economic and business research, including more than six years at Standard Chartered Bank as its Asia Research Head, seven years working for the Hong Kong Monetary Authority covering both macro-economic and policy research, and 11 years at Merrill Lynch as its Asia Regional Chief Economist.

Shanghai Free-trade Zone is the first Hong Kong-like free trade area in mainland China. The plan was first announced by the government in July and it was personally endorsed by Premier Li Keqiang who said he wanted to make the zone a snapshot of how China can upgrade its economic structure. Other mainland cities and provinces including Tianjin and Guangdong have also lobbied Beijing for such approvals. The Shanghai FTZ will first span 28.78 square kilometres in the city’s Pudong New Area, including the Waigaoqiao duty-free zone and Yangshan port and it is believed it may eventually expand to cover the entire Pudong district which covers 1,210.4 sq km of land.

The government has so far been clear in its intention to introduce financial reforms in the zone, but not as clear on how they will actually take place. The details on what can and cannot be done there, and when certain reforms will be implemented, remain sketchy. The reforms planned for this Shanghai zone will be much more difficult than those that took place in the trade- and manufacturing-focused zones of yesteryear. Factories, and the shirts, shoes and TV sets they make, are easy to monitor and control; not so financial flows, which could surge in and out of the zone with destabilizing speed. Financial firms could also take advantage of different interest rates and currency values inside and outside the zone to turn a quick buck.

There is some hope that this Shanghai experiment will have stronger prospects. Guangdong province and other provinces would like to follow Shanghai to have their own Free-trade Zone. 

Sergeant at Arms PP Danny collected HK$1060 in raffle and fines.  Mr. Kwan drew the raffle and the winner was Rtn Joe, who won a bottle of red wine.