Mainland Chinese authorities and Hong Kong business leaders have teamed up to launch a new commercial services centre in Guangdong province.
Sixteen local business, professional and policy research groups - the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Hong Kong Industries among them - will station representatives at the centre, which is designed to help city residents looking to expand their businesses into the mainland.
At the centre's launch on Monday, former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, one of its key proponents, described the project as the first of its kind.
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"This is the first time that a large number of [business groups] have come together to create an environment [of cross-border collaboration] under the same roof with their Guangdong counterparts," he said.
While the Hong Kong government and local trade unions have previously set up offices on the mainland, the local business owners they are intended to serve have long complained of inadequate support, calling for more direct channels of dialogue with mainland experts and bureaucrats.
The Guangzhou government responded by establishing the Consultative Committee on Guangdong-Hong Kong Cooperation in Nansha in April. The committee, which oversees the centre, is a government-to-business body with 16 Hong Kong and 11 mainland members.
It is chaired by Yue Yi, a former vice-chairman and chief executive of Bank of China (Hong Kong), and its vice-chairmen are former senior officials Xu Ze and Greg So Kam-leung, Hong Kong's commerce chief from 2011 to 2017.
The central government last month issued new plans encouraging cross-border collaboration in two other Guangzhou economic zones: Qianhai and Hengqin.
Asked if similar centres might be set up in those two zones or other mainland cities, Leung said it was a possibility.
"We need to improve cross-border cooperation, and foster mutual understanding through more policy studies, research and interaction with each other," he said.
"Now we are focusing our energy on Nansha. But if this proves to be effective … I am willing to push this forward in other places in mainland China."