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Asian Financial Forum explores innovation as economic growth accelerator

The 11th Asian Financial Forum (AFF) opened today (January 15), providing a high-level platform for global policymakers as well as financial and business leaders to exchange views on how to embrace innovation and technology to steer economic growth in Asia and beyond.

The two-day forum, with a theme of "Steering Growth and Pioneering Innovation: Asia and Beyond", has brought together more than 2,900 attendees from around the world including government officials, representatives from central banks and regulatory authorities, and finance and business leaders. The AFF is co-organised by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Addressing the opening session of the AFF this morning, the Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, highlighted Hong Kong's role as a premier international financial centre. She said, "As China has embedded and integrated itself into the world economy, creating a symbiotic relationship of a scale and complexity unseen in history, the roles of Hong Kong and the functions we could uniquely offer as an international financial centre, underpinned by 'one country, two systems', have taken on increased relevance and importance as never before."

While noting that Hong Kong is the world's largest offshore Renminbi business hub, a preferred listing platform for initial public offerings and a premier centre for asset management and risk management, Mrs Lam emphasised that Hong Kong must set its vision far and wide, guided by strong leadership and a coherent strategy for consolidating its strengths and opening up new horizons. Citing the Financial Leaders Forum set up in August 2017 as an example, she said the forum has provided strategic guidance over a number of financial issues, including key changes to make Hong Kong the preferred listing platform for new economy enterprises.

On economic connections, Mrs Lam pointed out that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative would further deepen Hong Kong's role in connecting the Mainland with other economies. She added that the Government attaches great importance to financial technologies (Fintech) with a view to enhancing the city's competitiveness to tap opportunities amid the wealth creation process of China's growth.

At the cocktail reception held in the evening, the Financial Secretary, Mr Paul Chan, spoke on Hong Kong's strength in various financial areas, highlighting its unique position where the global advantage and the China advantage converge. He added that with the development of Fintech and Hong Kong's regulatory regime keeping pace with the times, he is confident that Hong Kong is ready for capturing the ample opportunities ahead.

Earlier today, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr James Lau, chaired two plenary sessions on "Steering Growth and Pioneering Innovation: Asia and Beyond" and "Steering Growth and Pioneering Innovation: Regulatory Responses to Emerging Technologies and Innovations" in the morning and afternoon respectively. Mr Lau exchanged insights with finance ministers, regulators and leading figures of international financial institutions on how Asia can leverage innovation to maintain growth and drive the global economy. Speakers joining Mr Lau in these two sessions were the Vice Chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Dr Jiang Yang; the President of the Asian Development Bank, Mr Takehiko Nakao; the Minister of Finance of Luxembourg, Mr Pierre Gramegna; the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services of Australia, Ms Kelly O'Dwyer; the Minister of Finance of the Slovak Republic, Mr Peter Kažimír; the Chief Executive Officer of the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong and Chairman of the Board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions, Mr Ashley Alder; the Chair of the European Securities and Markets Authority, Mr Steven Maijoor; the First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Russia, Mr Sergey Shvetsov; and the Senior Adviser on Legal Affairs to the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Mr Robert San Pé.

Also among the highlights of the first-day programme was the luncheon keynote speech delivered by the 76th United States Secretary of the Treasury, Mr Jacob J Lew, during which he shared his insights on the economic outlook of the United States and the global market. In the opening session, the First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mr David Lipton, delivered a keynote address on Asia's economic outlook.

Before the luncheon, a policy dialogue chaired by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Mr Norman Chan, was held. Speakers were Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank Dr Andreas Dombret; the HSBC Group Chief Executive, Mr Stuart Gulliver; the Chairman of the China Development Bank, Mr Hu Huaibang; the President and Chairman of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Mr Jin Liqun; and Mr Lipton. They looked into how the Mainland's policies such as the internationalisation of the Renminbi and the Belt and Road Initiative would impact global economic and market developments. The programme also comprised two panel discussions focusing on the global economy as well as the trade and investment opportunities in China.

The 11th AFF will continue tomorrow (January 16), featuring a variety of subjects in relation to Fintech, innovations in banking and big data. A number of influential technology experts have been invited to participate in a series of InnoTalks, providing insights to financial practitioners to tap the opportunities arising from rapid developments in technology. The second-day programme will also include a breakfast panel; a deal flow matchmaking session; and the newly launched InnoVenture Salon, providing a platform to connect start-ups with potential investors and partners.

Echoing the theme of innovation, the keynote luncheon of the second day will feature the Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor Daniela Rus, as guest speaker to talk about the latest developments in artificial intelligence and robotics.


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