Hong Kong’s John Lee calls for closer ties with Malaysia at celebration of 10 years of country’s chamber of commerce

Hong Kong’s John Lee calls for closer ties with Malaysia at celebration of 10 years of country’s chamber of commerce

Hong Kong’s chief executive has promised more collaboration between the city and Malaysia as the financial centre continues to strengthen its free-trade agreements with the Asean group of nations.

John Lee Ka-chiu, speaking at a reception organised by the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce to mark its 10th anniversary, said the “much valued cooperation can be counted in more than trade numbers”.

“And there is much to look forward to in the coming years,” he added. “We have, for example, been contributing to the Economic and Technical Cooperation Work Programme under the free-trade agreement between Asean and Hong Kong.”

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City leader John Lee (third right) toasts the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce at a reception to mark its 10th anniversary in Hong Kong. Photo: Edmond So

The event was attended by hundreds of guests, including more than 30 international trade associations and diplomats.

Malaysia is part of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which was the city’s second-largest trading partner in 2022.

Trade between Hong Kong and Asean countries amounted to a record high of HK$1.3 trillion (US$166 billion) that year, 13.7 per cent of the city’s global merchandise trade.

The Malaysian ambassador to China, Norman Bin Muhamad, who attended the reception, said he hoped his country’s relations with the city would deepen in the future.

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“The success of this visit, I believe, is not an overnight accomplishment, but rather resulted from consistent and tireless efforts of the stakeholders of all parties over the years,” he said. “It is our responsibility to ensure the relationship will endure and grow.”

Lee made a week-long tour of Asean nations such as Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia last year.

He presided over the signing of 33 agreements which spanned cooperation in trade and commerce, investment and finance, innovation and technology, logistics, academic research and cultural exchanges.

Among the memorandums were 11 deals signed with Malaysia, including a railway and property deal with Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation for a rapid transit project to link the country’s city of Johor Bahru and Singapore, estimated to cost about 10 billion ringgit (US$2.2 billion)

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Anthony Loke, Malaysia’s transport minister, said during the 2023 visit by Lee’s delegation that he was impressed by the Hong Kong rail giant’s property development funding model.

He added that he was open to greater collaboration with the MTR Corp in other locations in the country.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have also backed Hong Kong for membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest free-trade bloc, made up of 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including the Asean group.

Lee earlier this week met the consuls general of Asean countries, where he reinforced his desire for closer ties between the city and the group.

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