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HK trade access to improve in new deal

HONG Kong firms will get greater and easier access to the Chinese mainland markets in tourism, securities, banking services and other sectors under an expanded trade deal signed yesterday.

The new access provisions are included in the sixth supplement to a key trade agreement signed by the central government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.

Under the agreement, authorization requirements will be eased for Hong Kong commercial banks to expand their existing networks in the neighboring mainland province of Guangdong to cover different cities province-wide.

Joint-venture securities investment-advisory companies involving Hong Kong businesses and their mainland counterparts will also be allowed from October 1.

However, the percentage of shareholding by Hong Kong parties will be restricted to no more than one-third.

Mainland travel agents also will be able to organize group tours for mainland residents heading to Taiwan to transit and stay in Hong Kong.

The aim was to help the tourism trade develop multi-destination package offers, Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang said yesterday.

The Supplement VI to the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) was signed by John Tsang, financial secretary of the Hong Kong government, and the central government's Vice Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei in Hong Kong.

According to Donald Tsang, the supplement agreement introduces 29 measures that are built on the liberalization of 20 service sectors and open two more sectors to Hong Kong businesses, namely research and development and rail transport.

"With the new supplement, the total number of service sectors covered by the CEPA and its supplements will be expanded from 40 to 42," Jiang said.

The liberalization measures cover, among others, audio and visual services, telecommunications, legal services, conventions and exhibitions, transport, printing and publishing.

Some of the measures will be first implemented in Guangdong on a pilot basis.

Mutual recognition of professional qualifications will be encouraged in sectors such as accounting, architecture, real estate and printing services. Hong Kong pharmacists will be allowed to qualify and register on the mainland.

In addition to joint-venture law firms, Hong Kong lawyers meeting certain requirements will be able to practice on the mainland. The measures will take effect on October 1 to "allow the trade to enjoy the benefits earlier," Jiang said.


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