Belt and Road Summit opens with record gathering
13 Sep 2023


Meeting to highlight new opportunities arising from regional cooperation, youth development


The two-day Belt and Road Summit kicked off in Hong Kong today, drawing nearly 6,000 people from various countries and regions, together with high-level government representatives from at least 10 countries and approximately 100 delegations, making it the largest gala since the establishment of the annual event in 2016.


During the summit, around 20 memorandums of understanding are expected to be signed.


Speaking ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said this forum is of great importance, as it coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative and marks the first face-to-face event since the COVID-19 pandemic.


Lee said that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is committed to promoting business and investment opportunities for countries involved in the initiative during the summit and will strive to promote Hong Kong's role and involvement in the initiative.


This year's summit will focus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Middle East markets, which are emerging in the Belt and Road regions. Earlier, Lee led high-level delegations, comprising business leaders and officials, to visit both markets; both achieved substantial results, with dozens of memorandums of understanding signed.


During the visit to the Middle East in February, Hong Kong companies made deals with local firms to provide hydrogen-powered vehicles and refueling stations, as well as offering energy-saving, environmentally friendly, and urban design solutions.


The event will feature prominent speakers at home and abroad, including Lee; Hong Kong Trade Development Council Chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok; and foreign officials, such as Minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri and the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Kao Kim Hourn.


This year the summit will have three dedicated sessions, focusing on the Middle East, the financial sector, and young business leaders.


Nearly 150 young participants will be attending, and Hong Kong youth ambassadors will have the opportunity to contribute to the forum, Lee said.


The first day of the summit will comprise several engaging sessions, such as "Tapping into the Potential of the Middle East", "Fostering Business Collaboration along the Belt and Road through Hong Kong", and "International Legal Cooperation". Sessions on the second day will include the "Business Session on the Middle East: Outlook in the Middle East Market and the Project Investment Session: Saudi Arabia".


Hong Kong held its first Belt and Road Summit in May 2016.


Beijing will host the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October.


Deep involvement


Hong Kong has been deeply involved in the initiative. By 2022, official data showed that approximately 20 percent of its trade was conducted with countries and regions taking part in the initiative.


Apart from the Chinese mainland and the Macao Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong has signed free trade agreements with 18 economies. Among them, 13 are economies taking part in the initiative, including the 10 ASEAN countries, Chile, New Zealand, and Georgia.


The Hong Kong SAR government began handing out scholarships to students from economies involved in the Belt and Road Initiative in the 2016-17 academic year, with the number of awardees rising from 10 that year to 99 in the 2021-22 academic year.


The city's commissioner for Belt and Road, Nicholas Ho Lik-chi, assumed office on Sept 1.


Ho, who previously served as the chairman of Ho & Partners Architects, Engineers & Development Consultants, brings extensive experience to the role.


Additionally, he has represented Hong Kong on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council since 2017 and was part of the delegation accompanying Lee on his visit to the Middle East. Ho has spearheaded several projects linked to the initiative, focusing on the development of smart cities and the construction of eco-friendly buildings.


Source: China Daily