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Business People Hail Closer Economic Partnership
The signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between Hong Kong and the mainland yesterday has widely been seen by business people as a shot in the arm for the sagging local economy.

The extent of the benefits will depend on how well business people can tap its potential.

"CEPA gives Hong Kong a two-year headstart over potential foreign rivals," said Priscilla Lau, associate head of the Department of Business Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

But she told Cable TV the results would only become apparent in the longer term.

Higher value-added industry would benefit the most from CEPA, said Eden Woon, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

One of the important effects of CEPA will be to drive industrial restructuring further towards more innovation. Zero tariffs will encourage more manufacturing in brand-name goods and products with a high intellectual property content, further enhancing the competitiveness of manufacturing industries such as design and audio-visual production, he said.

Victor Li, deputy chairman of the Cheung Kong Holdings, agrees the CEPA would spark greater development in Hong Kong's high technology industry.

He said the company would expand its life sciences business in Hong Kong as there would be more room for growth.

Lau Ping-cheung, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services, said CEPA will bring immediate benefit to a professional and managerial level. However, he would like to see more clarification on taxation issues, which are often a pertinent part of the business.

Though bullish about the arrangement, George Leung, chief economist at HSBC, cautioned the impact of the pact on Hong Kong's economy should not be overestimated. He said short-term benefits would surface soon after the pact was signed but "we should not expect too many changes in the economy by then."

Zero tariffs would only bring about savings of HK$750 million (US$96.15 million), which is not going to have too great an impact on the economy, he said.

(China Daily June 30, 2003)

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