Hong Kong can create opportunities from Saudi Arabia now that it has returned to the international stage, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said in Riyadh yesterday as he also announced that multiple rounds of exploratory discussions on investments between the two places are to begin.
On the second day of his visit at the head of a delegation of officials and more than 30 industry leaders, Lee spoke at the LEAP 2023 technology conference - a three-day event.
Lee touted the SAR's seamless connection to the world now that there are no more quarantine restrictions on entry, and described the government's recent launch of the "Hello, Hong Kong" campaign as the world's largest welcome event for visitors.
"Hong Kong has struggled for three years with Covid
, we have already opened ourselves up to connect to the world, and just today, we resumed normal travel with mainland," Lee said.
Hong Kong is fast becoming an international innovation technology hub, he said, with its goal of "attracting at least 100 innovation and technology enterprises or representatives to set up or expand in Hong Kong over the next five years," which is expected to bring in more than US$1.2 billion (HK$9.36 billion) in investments.
On Sunday, Lee exchanged views on closer economic and trade ties with Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Investment, and also met Turqi A Al-Nowaiser, deputy governor of the Public Investment Fund.
Lee expressed gratitude for the fund's recent opening of a new office in Hong Kong, saying the SAR is in a strategic location and offers unique advantages under one country, two systems, world-class infrastructure and abundant professional talents.
At an investment forum on Sunday, Lee said after the exploratory talks, the two sides will launch formal negotiations on an investment promotion and protection deal that will "further promote bilateral investment flows and strengthen confidence of investors from both sides."
He also witnessed the exchange of six memorandums of understanding or letters of intent in finance, innovation technology, business, transportation and energy, etc.
One of them, between Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and Saudi Stock Exchange, will explore cooperation in areas like fintech, ESG and cross listings.
The delegation also visited an exhibition of a smart city on Sunday.
Riyadh is planning to invest US$500 billion on a 26,500-square-kilometer smart city in the northwest by 2030 that will accommodate nine million people and help achieve its zero-carbon emission goal.
Lee said Hong Kong's outstanding and competitive standards in architecture, design, construction and planning and world-class professional services will be conducive to supporting the development of such a city.
Lee left for Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, in the evening and will return on Saturday.