Hong Kong leader seeks to deepen Middle East relations

HONG KONG (Bloomberg): Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee (pic) on Saturday embarked on his first official visit to the Middle East, kicking off a campaign to attract new investment to the city following almost three years of pandemic isolation.

Lee will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from Feb 6 until Feb 11. During that time, he’ll meet with local political and business leaders to promote new development opportunities and "foster Hong Kong’s exchanges and co-operation with Saudi Arabia and the UAE on all fronts,” according to a government statement released before the trip.

The chief executive said before leaving that Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s development vision and needs are "exactly in line” with Hong Kong’s advantages, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

Lee’s trip comes as local Hong Kong officials seek to promote the city and attract new investment opportunities to boost its battered economy, which contracted last year for the third time since 2019 as a prolonged exit from isolating Covid curbs weighed on the city.

The Hong Kong leader will meet top executives of oil giant Saudi Aramco, aiming to convince the company to list on the city’s stock exchange, the South China Morning Post reported, without saying where it got the information. Saudi Arabian Oil Co, as the company is formally known, listed in Saudi capital Riyadh in 2019.

Since Hong Kong began reopening last year, Hong Kong officials have sought to increase engagement with the Middle East and their Asian neighbours as relations with traditional western allies have cooled amid authorities’ crackdown on dissent.

Last October, Financial Secretary Paul Chan visited Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to develop potential business opportunities, while Lee and other government officials have since visited Vietnam and Thailand for similar purposes.

The financial secretary said at the time of his visit that bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing reached out to Saudi Aramco about a secondary listing, according to the South China Morning Post.

China has been actively pursuing investment opportunities in the Middle East amid heightened Sino-US tensions. In December Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia for a summit where some US$50bil (RM213bil) of investment agreements were signed.

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Hong Kong , Middle East , investment


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