Hong Kong, September 9 (Reporter Wei Huadu, Fan Siyi, Liu Xuanting, Luo Siyu, Liang Yuan, Chen Yongnuo) Before joining the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), Fong Shunwen served in the Hong Kong SAR Government for a long time. She joined the HKTDC in 21 and became President in October 2010, leading the HKTDC to create business opportunities for Hong Kong-based businesses and promote Hong Kong's external trade through its global network.

How can HKTDC contribute to the post-pandemic recovery of the MICE industry? What are the new ideas for the future? How to help the "Belt and Road" initiative and help enterprises "go out and bring in"? Fang Shunwen recently accepted an exclusive interview with China News Network's "Hong Kong and Macao Meeting Room" to answer these questions one by one.

Video: Hong Kong and Macao Living Room | Fang Shunwen: Continue to promote more enterprises to participate in the development of the "Belt and Road" Source: China News Network

Excerpts from the interview are as follows:

China News Network: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past <> years, Hong Kong has made remarkable achievements in participating in and contributing to the Belt and Road Initiative. What role has the HKTDC played in this process?

Fang Shunwen: We have built a professional website for the "Belt and Road" since 2015, which has more than 1900 million views so far. Since 2016, we have held the "Belt and Road" Summit Forum, bringing together people from all over the world who are interested in the "Belt and Road", especially looking for business opportunities. In 2017, we established the Belt and Road International Business and Trade Alliance, which has more than 46 members from 170 countries and regions, and they discuss cooperation opportunities every year.

In the past 10 years, we have continuously launched new platforms, and also organized many visiting missions, such as the ASEAN region, the Middle East and Europe, not only to organize local enterprises, but also to cooperate with the Ministry of Commerce and other mainland provinces and cities.

China News Network: The 8th "Belt and Road" Summit Forum was successfully held in Hong Kong. What have we achieved at this forum?

Fang Shunwen: This forum is marking the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, and everyone attaches great importance to it, with nearly 70,6000 people from more than <> countries and regions participating, the most in history, including four or five ministerial-level guests. As the focus of the "Belt and Road" countries, we hope that everyone will know more about it.

During the forum, about 20 memorandums of understanding were signed, covering many areas, such as some Hong Kong companies signing brand cooperation with representatives of the Middle East. Most importantly, the focus of this forum is the Middle East, so the "Middle East Session" was set up, attracting nearly 200 Middle East delegates, which is the largest ever. The Middle East is the focus area of the Belt and Road countries, and they have brought about 50 Middle East development projects to Hong Kong to match, hoping for more results.

On September 9, the 13th Belt and Road Summit opened at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The picture shows the participants being attracted by the clips played on the electronic screens of the Belt and Road Summit. Photo by China News Agency reporter Li Zhihua

China News Network: Please introduce the overall situation of the HKTDC in promoting Hong Kong's participation in the "Belt and Road" construction, and share with us some impressive stories.

Fang Shunwen: Let me share two. In 2018, we organized 20 university students to travel to Kazakhstan via rail in Urumqi, Xinjiang, to exchange ideas with local young people, and they jointly made some project proposals and discussed how to promote business projects. My biggest impression is that these Hong Kong university students are very excited, they find that there are many areas where Hong Kong and the local area can cooperate.

Another story is that the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) John Lee Ka-chiu led more than 2 business representatives to visit the Middle East in February this year, which was organised by our HKTDC, and everyone marveled at the opportunities and vitality of Saudi Arabia's opening up and reform in the past 30 years. I think this is a good experience, to truly understand a place, you must personally experience the vitality of the local area, the enthusiasm of people, participate in development, and the HKTDC will continue to promote more Hong Kong enterprises to participate in the development of the "Belt and Road" in the future.

China News Network: What do you think is the recovery trend of Hong Kong's convention and exhibition industry since the beginning of this year? Can you tell us about this year's "report card"? How do you assess this recovery?

Fong Shun Man: Organising international exhibitions and conferences requires smooth flow of people, but the MICE industry has been hit hard during the pandemic, but we are glad to see the recovery of the MICE industry when customs clearance resumes between Hong Kong and the Mainland. From January to September this year, we have nearly 1,9 international buyers from 180 countries and regions participating in MICE activities, while exhibitions of other enterprises are also recovering, and it is expected that Hong Kong's convention and exhibition industry will recover to about 26% or <>% before the epidemic, and will fully recover next year. Compared with the rest of the world, the recovery of Hong Kong's MICE industry is impressive, thanks to the support of mainland enterprises.

Recently, Fong Shunwen, President of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, was interviewed by China News Network's "Hong Kong and Macao Meeting Room". Photo by China News Network reporter Chen Yongnuo

China News Network: In the process of gradual recovery, what challenges does Hong Kong's convention and exhibition industry face? How does the HKTDC help these industries and enterprises overcome these difficulties?

Fong: The biggest challenge is that people are worried about whether exhibitors and buyers will come, and our approach is to find more high-value exhibitors and buyers through HKTDC's 50 offices around the world and invite them to participate in the fair. They want to do business the most after they come, so we have targeted efforts in "business matching", especially some important buyers, we will ask their needs in advance, help them find suitable exhibitors in advance, and the response is very good.

The HKSAR Government has also been very supportive of us, launching the HK$7.14 billion Exhibition Subsidy Scheme in July this year to encourage more international conferences and exhibitions to be held in Hong Kong.

China News Network: The epidemic has brought unprecedented impact to Hong Kong's convention and exhibition industry, but at the same time, has it also brought some new enlightenment to the industry? Does the HKTDC have any new thoughts on the future development of the industry? Does the HKTDC have new objectives and positioning at this new stage of development? What are your expectations for the future of Hong Kong's MICE industry?

Fang Shunwen: During the epidemic, everyone is not allowed to travel, in order to make enterprises continue to contact and do business in this situation, we thought that we could not only rely on physical information, but also online contact, so we made a virtual integrated service platform, but most enterprises also want to talk face-to-face, so we will launch the "Exhibition Plus" (Exhibition Plus) in July 2022 to seamlessly connect online and offline. At present, all activities are carried out through this method, through which they agree to meet at the exhibition or learn about each other's products in advance, which makes the whole process smoother, and we also use big data and artificial intelligence to make the whole business matching more accurate.

We feel that it is important to apply technology in the future and understand the latest needs of different industries, so we add three elements to all our exhibitions, one is technology, how different industries apply technology; The second is sustainable development, to pay attention to how some new products and solutions can do better in green development; The third is to pay attention to how to add "big health" elements in different industries, which is of great concern to everyone. Hong Kong has many advantages as a convention and exhibition capital, and as long as we continue to improve ourselves, I believe the prospects should be very good.

The picture shows Fang Shunwen being interviewed by China News Network's "Hong Kong and Macao Meeting Room". Photo by Chen Yongnuo

China News Network: As you just mentioned, in recent years, the Hong Kong SAR government has also focused on building an international innovation and technology center. At the same time, Hong Kong should also play its role in bringing commerce and trade in. What has the HKTDC done in this regard over the past decade? What role does I&T play in helping Hong Kong enterprises attract investment?

Fang Shunwen: Technology is an important part of promoting economic development around the world, and our annual Asian Financial Forum will be dedicated to showcasing financial technology; In 2021, we launched a new project called "Asian Healthcare Summit" to showcase the development of healthcare and biotechnology between the Mainland and Hong Kong, so that everyone can understand that Asia is a big market and there are many good solutions to bring to the world.

In April this year, we launched the Hong Kong International Innovation and Technology Fair. In the past, there have been many different technology exhibitions focused on the industry, and everyone only focused on the industry rather than the importance of I&T itself, so our new exhibition is to highlight the importance of I&T, and we hope to introduce the remarkable achievements of the Mainland and Hong Kong in technology over the past decade to the world, and at the same time help them commercialize to the world, so that international enterprises can use this platform to enter Asia. The first edition was very enthusiastic, with trade groups from 4 countries participating and setting up pavilions.

Participants from different industries have told us that they will come every year in the future, because they have to see new technological elements, which cannot be fully understood on the Internet, which is very useful for our investment promotion, for example, there is a British company that makes medical robots, they feel that Hong Kong now has great support for medical technology, they feel that Asia is a big market, after participating in the "Asian Healthcare Summit Forum", they directly settled in Hong Kong, and also developed business in Southeast Asia and other Asian regions through Hong Kong.

In terms of fintech, Hong Kong is an international financial centre that attracts many different businesses to Hong Kong, one of which is better known as Prudential of the United Kingdom, which moved the entire company's international headquarters to Hong Kong. We have seen that those who are interested in technology and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will choose Hong Kong.

China News Network: We have noticed that since the beginning of this year, many trade groups from mainland cities, especially cities in the Greater Bay Area, have come to Hong Kong for exchanges, and many different Hong Kong enterprises have come to the mainland to participate in the exhibition. What is the current situation of the HKTDC in terms of business exchanges with the Mainland? In the future, what support measures will the HKTDC provide to facilitate the integration of Hong Kong enterprises into the overall development of the country?

Fong Shunwen: Since the resumption of customs clearance between Hong Kong and the mainland at the beginning of this year, we have received delegations from more than 300 different provinces and cities in the mainland, all of which value Hong Kong as an important platform for attracting investment and many provinces and cities have held some large-scale activities in Hong Kong, and the HKTDC will support and participate in many times. Investment attraction is an important direction for the mainland, and many provinces and cities will support enterprises to participate in international exhibitions in Hong Kong, and they say that Hong Kong is doing better, so they will come to support.

They are also discussing with us to go out to attract investment, especially Hong Kong is a major promoter of the Greater Bay Area, for example, next week we will do promotional activities with Shenzhen in Malaysia, we will also discuss with Guangdong to go to different cities, and we are also discussing with the Greater Bay Area Office how to make better use of the HKTDC's 50 global networks to do better in terms of information or business connectivity, and everyone is very interested in "joining forces" to go out and promote together. I think in this regard, our cooperation with the mainland, especially the mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area, will only become more and more intense. (End)