Andrew Yao Cho-fai is a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress and chairman, executive director and chief executive officer of Hong Kong Shanghai Alliance Holdings. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Hong Kong could be a key international renminbi center by setting up a commodities exchange to help the nation capture the pricing of world commodities and further promote the yuan’s going global.

The suggestion comes from Hong Kong deputy to the nation’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, Andrew Yao Cho-fai, who also is chairman, executive director and chief executive officer of Hong Kong Shanghai Alliance Holdings — a listed diversified conglomerate specializing in the distribution of steel and building products, as well as processing.

“Right now, the Chinese mainland is the world’s largest importer and user of commodities. With the importation power, or what we call purchasing power, we could set up an exchange in Hong Kong using renminbi. Businesses could choose between using the US dollar or renminbi,” he said.

Andrew Yao Cho-fai, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, is confident the city could be a global innovation and technology hub in collaboration with Shenzhen

Yao noted that some of the commodities being traded between China and Saudi Arabia are settled in renminbi. “If Hong Kong can capture some of these international trade transactions, we can make money out of it and create employment, and turn Hong Kong into a very important overseas renminbi center.”

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He said the special administrative region can produce more actual usage of renminbi in global trade and investment through the issuance of renminbi-denominated debt, using the Chinese currency to buy stocks in the SAR and issuing renminbi-denominated interest rate and currency derivatives.

Yao is confident Hong Kong could be a global innovation and technology hub in collaboration with Shenzhen.

“My first suggestion is to seriously consider setting up a university in the Northern Metropolis area that could attract professors, scientists, businessmen and technologists to open up companies there, using the university’s research capability by taking advantage of the area’s proximity to Shenzhen.” 

“Another suggestion is to ask the central government to build and invest in major technological laboratories in Hong Kong in areas like smart city, life sciences, big data and artificial intelligence. Hong Kong can be a technological hub for the mainland,” Yao envisaged.

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The veteran businessman said he expects the 11 cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to work together to make themselves more competitive among various groups of cities.

“We could learn from the management and operational efficiency of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macao and Zhuhai airports, and each airport will have its own specialty. One airport could be handling cargo, and another focusing on international or domestic passengers,” he said.

He said Macao can specialize in handling some of the domestic mainland travel routes, where Hong Kong people can transit just through Macao airport to Sichuan, Tibet and Xinjiang easily.

To boost the overall competitiveness of the city-cluster area, it needs to strengthen the flow of talents in the region. Currently, many foreign talents working in Hong Kong are local residents, but they do not have a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport. They need to get visas to enter the Chinese mainland.

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“My proposal is to relax the visa issuance to those foreign talents and their family members. That can improve people flows and information flows,” Yao said.

He also recommended “one-stop” multiple immigration inspection points be carried out at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to speed up the entry of people, as well as exchanges between the Hong Kong and Macao SARs.