Starting Your Belt and Road Journey

by Ken Mark (ken.mark@rogers.com), freelance writer.

The British Canadian Chamber of Commerce  hosted the Hong Kong – Starting Your Belt and Road Journey workshop on February 26. Several speakers outlined how Canadian firms could leverage Hong Kong as a strategic platform to identify the latest China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) business opportunities. 

Andrew Yui Toronto-based Canada director, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC ) explained,  “One way to understand BRI is by  a set of numbers 1, 1, 6, 5  — One Belt, One Road, six economic corridors and five connectivities.”

The original Belt & Road concept followed the ancient Silk Road linking China and Western Europe passing through Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It includes 65 countries representing 60 per cent of the world’s population and more than 30 per cent of global merchandise trade and around 30% of the world’s GDP. BRI’s  goal is to promote economic development and  prosperity in six economic corridors linking major cities and key seaports. 

In addition, such a vision will lead to activities between partners in five principal connectivities viz. government-to -government policy co-ordination, infrastructure connectivity, financial and investment integration, unimpeded trade as well as society-to-society and people-to-people links.

From simply covering the geographic area of the ancient Silk Road, BRI has become China’s blueprint for trade globalization to which Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China encourages all countries in various stages of economic development to join.

One recent example is the “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” plan. It will link the cities of Hong Kong, Macao, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and seven other nearby centres into an integrated economic and business hub. The region is home to 68 million people and enjoys an annual GDP of US$1.54 trillion.

Yui encouraged Canadian businessmen to sign up for the HKTDC’s BRI Summit scheduled for September 11 – 12 in Hong Kong.

Daniel Leslie, Toronto-based Head of Client Coverage & Deputy Head of Commercial Banking HSBC Bank Canada explained that Canadian firms should not ignore trade and finance deals in Asia but to see the region as an opportunity to diversify their activities beyond their existing overseas markets.

HSBC ‘s Hong Kong based staff  can offer Canadian firms a full range  of financial services including in-depth insights  i.e.,  “exportable knowledge” on BRI-related  business opportunities.

Logistics consultant Bob Armstrong has been a regular attendee at the HKTDC’s recent BRI Summits and other infrastructure conferences. He is currently leveraging his market intelligence to assist BC’s Port of Prince George to facilitate delivery goods purchased from online Chinese retailers to Canadian and US consumers.

The event’s chair, Norman P.J. Morris as The Master of The Honourable Company of Freemen of The City of London of North America  and the “ Voice of the City [of London] Beijing closed the session by reminding the audience that the Freeman are well known in North America.  As a leading World Financial Centre, the  Freemen have also been involved with Hong Kong and China for many years. 

Recently, the Lord Mayor, Peter Estlin, visited Hong Kong  and is currently touring Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing to boost city-to-city links, focusing on fintech & green finance. In April the City Policy Chair will attend the Beijing Belt & Road Forum.