Northern China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region - the country's third-largest province-level division by area - is betting big on joining hands with Hong Kong to jump on the bandwagon of the nation-led Belt and Road Initiative.
Bu Xiaolin - the region's chairwoman - told the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region-Hong Kong Business Cooperation Symposium held in the SAR on Wednesday that the two regions are both strategically located along the Belt and Road trade route, offering much room for bilateral cooperation.
The massive trade and infrastructure project, first mooted by President Xi Jinping in 2013 and spreading across 60 countries and regions, is looking at those with the foresight to get on board, said Bu.
And Hong Kong, which has retained the crown as the world's freest economy for the 22nd year in a row, according to the latest Index of Economic Freedom compiled annually by The Wall Street Journal and think tank the Heritage Foundation, "has what it takes to tie up with Inner Mongolia to explore the potentially huge investment opportunities", she noted.
Francis Ho, associate director-general of investment promotion at InvestHK - the investment arm of the SAR government - said the two territories have a good track record of investment collaboration.
The SAR has been Inner Mongolia's largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). So far, nearly 1,000 Hong Kong-funded projects have contributed more than $10 billion in FDI to the inland province that borders Russia and Mongolia, he said.
Meanwhile, the autonomous region has ploughed approximately $3 billion into Hong Kong.
Over the past decade, the annual growth of outbound direct investment (ODI) in the world's second-largest economy has reached 40 percent, with 60 percent of the ODI going to the SAR, Ho observed.
"The city, known for its liberal business ownership rules, free flow of information, established rule of law, coupled with easy access to funding and ready availability of talent that can function regionally and globally, is well-positioned for enterprises in Inner Mongolia to build their brands and approach global markets," he said.
In particular, Ho said Hong Kong could cash in on its expertise in the services sector, which accounted for 90 percent of the city's gross domestic product, to take an active role in its long-standing partnership with Inner Mongolia.
"Serving as Asia's financial hub and the largest offshore renminbi center, Hong Kong is gearing up to join forces with Inner Mongolia, the core of the China-Russia-Mongolia Economic Corridor, to jump on the Belt and Road wagon," he added.
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