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Eighth plenary session of HK/Guangdong co-operation held today

The Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, and the Governor of Guangdong Province, Mr Huang Huahua, leading the delegations of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and Guangdong Province respectively, chaired the Eighth Plenary of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in Hong Kong today (September 28).

The two sides reviewed the progress of co-operation over the past year and discussed the way forward. They also agreed to step up co-operation on various key issues.

(i) Co-operation in food safety

Both sides attached importance to public concern in the two places over food safety and would strengthen co-operation in this area. They agreed to exchange advance information on significant food safety measures and policies introduced by either side. The two governments also reached initial consensus in exploring the establishment of a notification system at a day-to-day operational level. Under this system, both governments will designate officers to make enquiries and notify the other side of issues related to inspection and quarantine of animals and plants and food safety in the two places. Both sides will organise meetings on a regular basis or on a needs basis for exchange of views and experience on major incidents and policies related to food safety.

(ii) Flow of people and cargo

The two sides agreed to accelerate the flow of people and cargo between the two places in order to capitalise on the enormous business opportunities brought about by the nation's development and regional co-operation.

The two sides recognised the importance of enhancing the efficiency of land-based cross-boundary cargo flow. The existing requirement of "one-truck one-driver" will be relaxed with effect from today (September 28). Under the new arrangement, every cross-boundary freight vehicle may engage one assigned driver and one back-up driver. The back-up drivers engaged by the same Hong Kong-Guangdong joint venture transport enterprise may drive any cross-boundary freight vehicle operated by that enterprise. This will increase operational flexibility for the trade. Moreover, the duration of the cross-boundary joint venture contract of cross-boundary freight vehicles will be extended from three years to six years. These two new measures are another move to promote cross-boundary freight transportation following relaxation of the "four-up four-down" rule (requiring the driver, tractor, trailer and container to be "tied together" for boundary crossings) in January this year.

Both sides also considered it important to strengthen rail cargo services. The preparatory work on the launch of a direct cargo train linking Changping in Dongguang and Hung Hom has been progressing well. The two sides will continue this work to ensure early commencement of the train service.

Regarding works relating to control points, both sides are now working towards the completion of the Shenzhen Bay Control Point for the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor and the control point for the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. Co-location arrangements (for instance, clearance services for both sides to be located at the same premises) will be implemented at the Shenzhen Bay Control Point to provide greater convenience for cross-boundary vehicles and travellers.

As for cross-boundary people flow, to increase cross-boundary ferry services between the Hong Kong International Airport and the Pearl River Delta, both sides agreed to launch a new route to Shunde. This service, which will be launched shortly, will bring the total number of routes to six. An airline check-in service at Shekou ferry terminal has also been launched. These measures will encourage more travellers making their way to and from the Mainland to make use of Hong Kong International Airport. The moves will also provide them with more convenient services.

(iii) Pan-Pearl River Delta regional co-operation

The two sides agreed to take forward co-operation on the Pan-Pearl River Delta (Pan-PRD) on various fronts. They will achieve fruitful results of co-operation between the two places with a view to radiating the co-operation to the whole Pan-PRD region. First, both sides will study the planning and infrastructure development in the Pan-PRD. They will also strengthen overseas promotion. The Chief Executive and the Financial Secretary will, together with the Governor of Guangdong Province, depart for Vancouver and San Francisco in October to promote the Pan-PRD and the Greater PRD region. The two sides will further promote co-operation within the Pan-PRD in financial services through the organisation of a financial services forum for the Pan-PRD provinces/regions in the coming year.

(iv) Co-operation in environmental protection

On improvements to regional air quality, the two sides will implement the PRD Regional Air Quality Management Plan progressively with a view to achieving the agreed emissions reduction targets for air pollutants by 2010. The PRD air-quality monitoring network established by the two sides has already passed the acceptance test. The joint conference agreed to make preparatory arrangements for reporting to the public the Regional Air Quality Index for the PRD on a daily basis by the end of this year, so that residents of both places could have more information about the region's air quality.

On conservation of water quality, the two sides expected the study on the development of a water quality model for the Pearl River Estuary to be completed in early 2006. The study will provide a scientific basis for the next phase of work to improve the water quality of the Pearl River Estuary. Both sides are also undertaking a study to assess the necessary additional measures and further joint action to control water pollution in Deep Bay.

(v) Co-operation in informatisation

The meeting agreed that to strengthen the joint competitiveness of the manufacturing industry and services sector of Hong Kong and Guangdong, the two sides would include informatisation as a key aspect of co-operation and establish a task force to look after the matter. The main areas include fostering co-operation between the software industries of Hong Kong and Guangdong; promoting the application of Radio Frequency Identification in logistics and clearance of goods; promoting the mutual recognition of professional qualifications; strengthening the development and application of new information technologies; and promoting the standardisation of technologies.

(vi) Co-operation in technology

On technology co-operation, the two sides launched a joint funding scheme in September, 2004, and 265 applications were received. After assessment, the two sides decided to support 67 projects with total funding of about $300 million, and these projects have already commenced. The two sides agreed to continue the scheme this year and to increase the funding amount to $520 million to strengthen its effectiveness. The two sides will also establish joint research and development (R&D) platforms and promote exchange between R&D institutions and industries in Guangdong and Hong Kong.

(vii) Infrastructure and planning

The two sides will strengthen co-ordination of the planning and construction of cross-boundary infrastructure projects to promote investment and tourism, create business opportunities and increase the competitiveness of the whole region. The entire Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor project including the relevant control point is expected to be completed by the end of next year. Both sides will, as soon as possible, reach agreement on the regulation of cross-boundary traffic following the opening of the corridor. On the preparatory work for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau have already reached a consensus on the landing points for the bridge. The feasibility study on the project has been largely completed. The findings are being assessed by the three parties, which will also discuss the next step to be taken with a view to expediting the project. Hong Kong and Guangdong will also take forward the study on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, and discuss the interface between the Hong Kong and the Mainland sections of the rail link.

On planning and development, the two sides have formulated the framework and direction of the "Planning Study on Co-ordinated Development of the Greater PRD Township" and will launch the study shortly. Both sides will also strengthen the exchange of information and views on city planning and regional development in both places.

(viii) Helping enterprises to develop their business

The two sides agreed to step up co-operation in attracting Hong Kong enterprises to enter the Guangdong market and encouraging Guangdong enterprises to invest in Hong Kong. Both sides will make the best use of the framework under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) to help Hong Kong's service sector set up businesses in Guangdong Province. Both sides will enhance co-operation in terms of communication and information exchange, which will facilitate follow-up work on possible problems in the implementation of CEPA, and allow swift communication of updated information on CEPA to the public. The two sides will also study ways to expand and improve the enquiry and assessment services in Guangdong.

Both sides also agreed to encourage more Guangdong enterprises to set up businesses in Hong Kong. From 2004 to June 2005, Invest Hong Kong has successfully assisted 60 Mainland enterprises to set up or expand their business in Hong Kong, 22 of which were enterprises from Guangdong Province. Invest Hong Kong will continue with its promotional efforts in the province. Among other initiatives, it will organise a business seminar at the end of this year to help Guangdong enterprises to make use of Hong Kong as a platform for access to the international market. The two sides are now compiling a Guangdong version of the Step-by-Step Guide, a guidebook on the procedures in relation to Guangdong enterprises exploring investment opportunities in Hong Kong. The publication is expected to be completed this year. The Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited will also step up promotional efforts to encourage more Guangdong enterprises to list in Hong Kong.

The Development Research Centre of Guangdong Province and the Central Policy Unit (CPU) of the HKSAR have just completed a study on ways to attract private enterprises to set up businesses in Hong Kong. The study provided a number of suggestions, including promotion of businesses that are more likely to set up businesses in Hong Kong, a policy to encourage private businesses to access the international market and measures to encourage investment in Hong Kong. The relevant departments of both Hong Kong and Guangdong will take these suggestions into consideration in adopting appropriate measures to help Guangdong enterprises to set up businesses in Hong Kong. The study can be accessed on the CPU website (www.info.gov.hk/cpu).

(ix) Co-operation in education

The two sides are committed to fostering co-operation on education with a view to raising the standard of human resources in the region. First, on tertiary education, the HKSAR has already reached a consensus with the Mainland authorities to relax immigration control on students with effect from the current academic year. Tertiary institutions in Hong Kong may recruit students directly from 17 provinces and cities in the Mainland, including Guangdong Province. At the same time, tertiary institutions in Hong Kong are actively looking for opportunities to collaborate with their counterparts in Guangdong Province. Many of them have set up research centres and training schools in neighbouring cities such as Shenzhen and Zhuhai. On basic education, 33 primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong have become "sister schools" with 33 schools in Guangdong. The education departments of both places will continue to promote exchange between primary and secondary school teachers and to facilitate training for teachers and management in both places.

(x) Co-operation in the business sector

The Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council has received co-operation from the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Guangdong Sub-council (CCPIT Guangdong Sub-Council) and the Guangdong Environmental Protection Industries Association to support environmental protection work initiated by the Hong Kong business sector. The first project is to encourage enterprises of both places to sign the Clean Air Charter so that they will take action to implement emissions reduction measures.

In the coming year, the business council will study two new topics, the first being industrial restructuring in Guangdong, which involves heavy industrialisation, and development of high-technology and services industries. The second topic is the development of Pearl River West, taking special note of the proposed construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and other transport infrastructure facilities. The business council will study the impact of these changes on Hong Kong and how the business sector in Hong Kong should react in response to the changes. The business council will liaise closely with the CCPIT Guangdong Sub-Council on the proposed studies.

(xi) Others

Apart from the areas mentioned above, the two sides will take forward co-operation in the following aspects:

(a) On tourism, the two sides will work closely on promoting tourist arrivals and the joint promotion of "multiple tourist itineraries". Both sides will also look into the possibility of organising experience-sharing sessions for tour guides of the two places so as to strengthen quality management and enhance the overall service standards of the tourism industry.

(b) On the protection of intellectual property, the two sides will continue promoting the "No Fakes Pledge", producing promotional material, organising seminars and establishing a co-operation system to handle cross-boundary cases concerning infringement of intellectual property rights. These efforts will not only boost confidence among investors to invest in the Greater PRD Region, but also encourage creativity in scientific research and cultural and design projects in the region.

(c) The governments of the HKSAR and Shenzhen have established a joint study group to oversee the preparatory study on the development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop.

(d) On civil service exchange, civil servants from different departments of Guangdong Province have been attending exchange programmes in Hong Kong since June. Civil servants from Hong Kong have been leaving for Guangdong in batches to start their attachment to relevant departments since August.

(e) On cultural activities, Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau will continue joint activities such as Cantonese Opera Day and International Museum Day. A roving exhibition on cultural relics of Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong will also be mounted in the three places.

Results of co-operation since the seventh plenary session

At the meeting, the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Rafael Hui, and the Executive Vice-Governor of Guangdong Province, Mr Tang Bingquan, reported on the outcomes of Hong Kong/Guangdong co-operation since the seventh plenary session. Details are in the Annex.

In conclusion, the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, said that the co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong was maturing. Co-operation of the two sides had become more comprehensive and multi-layered. On the other hand, the two sides needed to be more vibrant and creative in view of greater competition among regions in a globalised economy, growing expectations from the public and increasing public awareness of environmental issues. When handling more complicated areas of co-operation, both sides also needed better co-ordination and communication with each other.

The eighth plenary session

The Chief Executive and the Governor of Guangdong Province co-chaired the eighth plenary session today. Chief Secretary for Administration Mr Rafael Hui; Secretary for Education and Manpower Professor Arthur Li; Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Mr Stephen Lam; Secretary for Security Mr Ambrose Lee; Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Mr John Tsang and Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr York Chow attended the meeting. Also taking part were the Permanent Secretaries of relevant policy bureaus, including the Economic Development and Labour Bureau, the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau, the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau, the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau and the Constitutional Affairs Bureau.

The Executive Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, Mr Chen Zuo'er and the Deputy Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, Ms Guo Li, also attended the meeting.

The Chairman of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council, Dr Victor Fung, attended part of the meeting and briefed the joint conference on the council's work in the past year. Set up in March, 2004, and appointed by the Chief Executive, the business council members are from different sectors, including major chambers of commerce, professional groups and think-tanks in Hong Kong. It advises the Chief Executive on strengthening Hong Kong/Guangdong co-operation in economic and other arenas.

Ends/Wednesday, September 28, 2005