The BVI Asia Trade Mission 2016, led by Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, Premier and Minister for Finance of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), today concluded a highly successful and productive 12-day roadshow to Hong Kong, Beijing, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Shanghai in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
In addition to meetings with Chinese Government officials and business leaders, the Premier gave nine speeches and remarks on the five-city tour. The Premier led a 29-member delegation (varying in different cities) comprising both government and private sector practitioners from the BVI, China and Hong Kong. The Premier also did a number of media interviews for both print and television, including one with CNBC.
Director of BVI House Asia, Ms. Elise Donovan, said she was pleased to host the BVI’s Premier and delegation, and further noted that the “mission achieved its objectives, with the outcomes of greater opportunities for business development and a deeper relationship with both the Chinese Government and business community.”
Highlights of the Trade Mission follow below:
The trade mission roadshow launched with a series of meetings, including a VIP luncheon in Hong Kong on October 17, hosted by Premier Smith, and followed in the afternoon by the Premier’s meeting with the Honourable Chun-ying Leung, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Government.
In the evening more than 150 guests attended a cocktail reception hosted by BVI House Asia in the Sky Lobby of the Central Plaza Building. British Consul General Andrew Heyn, OBE, gave opening remarks followed by the Premier, who mentioned to the private sector delegates present the importance of the relationship between Hong Kong and BVI, and the BVI’s desire to continue to diversify its financial services offerings. One lucky guest won the door prize of a five-day sail on a luxury yacht compliments of the Moorings BVI and the BVI Tourist Board.
The following day, October 18, Business BVI hosted the third annual Business BVI Asia Regional Conference in Hong Kong, held at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel. Themed “Creating the Future: Leveraging Our Relationships & Technology,” the conference attracted more than 100 industry experts and leaders from the most progressive businesses in Asia and the BVI to exchange insights and knowledge about the offshore industry. “We are one of the world’s leading financial centres, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future,” Premier Smith declared in his conference keynote address, which focused on globalisation and the value of the BVI and other offshore centers to the global economy.
While in Hong Kong, the Premier and officials were also hosted to dinners by close associates and friends of the BVI.
On October 19 the Premier led his delegation to pay a courtesy visit to Mr. Xu Chen, Director of the Department of European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China. Mr. Chen expressed China's desire for a more fair and equitable world order and China's willingness to work towards greater cooperation. The Premier expressed the need for continued global interconnectedness and explained the important role BVI has played for the past 25 years, particularly in facilitating global investments.
The same day, the BVI delegation were welcomed by the President and Vice President of the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (CASME). China has 70 million SMEs, representing 99.7 percent of the total enterprises in China. The BVI delegation was joined by senior CASME members from the banking, investment holdings, energy, technology, consulting and marketing industry sectors. Discussions were held about how BVI structures could be used to support Chinese SME development.
Later in the day the Premier met with Mme. Yi, Lin, Vice President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and discussed the possibilities for economic, political, social and cultural exchanges between the BVI and China.
On October 20, Premier Smith met with Mr. Xingyong Yuan, Vice Governor of The Export and Import Bank of China, followed by a meeting with Vice Chairman Li Shihong and other senior members of the marketing and international cooperation departments of China National Tourism Association to familiarise the organisation with the BVI as a tourist destination. The meeting was in pursuit of the BVI’s goal to receive "approved destination status" (ADS) in China. Achieving that status will enable the BVI to be marketed and sold in China for group travel through Chinese travel agents and tour operators. The CNTA expressed optimism for future partnerships with the jurisdiction and believes that the BVI can become a destination of choice for Chinese tourists.
(With Vice Governor of The Export and Import Bank of China Xingyong Yuan)
(With Vice Chairman of China National Tourism Administration Shihong Li)
While in Beijing, the Premier and public sector delegates were also hosted at a banquet dinner by the Chairman of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Business Advisory Council Dr Zhang Lijun at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
The Beijing roadshow, held in the afternoon at the Westin Hotel Beijing Financial Street, was judged a complete success. The BVI delegation presented “Strategies for Global Success for Chinese using BVI.” The room was packed to capacity as Ms. Elise Donovan, Director of BVI House Asia, opened the event with a very impressive welcome in Chinese. A keynote speech by Premier Smith followed.
Ms. Lorna Smith, OBE, Interim Executive Director, BVI Finance, moderated a panel entitled “BVI – The International Partner of Choice.” The panel addressed issues such as the use of BVI trusts, funds and other structures for investment, succession planning and asset protection; the recent development of family offices in China; and the unique qualities the jurisdiction offers to the Chinese market.
Panelists included Ms. Clare Abrehart, Managing Director, AMS Financial Services; Ms. Adenike Sicard, Managing Partner, Sinclairs BVI; Ms. Sofia Shen, Maples FS; and Mr. Carson Wen, Of Counsel, Jones Day.
Ms. Kristy Calvert, Partner and Chief Representative, Shanghai, Harneys, presented on the “Belt & Road Initiative: How the BVI Facilitates the Investment Opportunity.” Ms. Calvert discussed investment opportunities for Chinese outbound investment through Central Asia and into ASEAN in various sectors – energy, infrastructure, mining and agriculture, as well as the use of BVI structures in major business deals.
“The BVI: At the Cutting Edge of Incorporations” was presented by Mr. Simon Filmer, Deputy Group Managing Director, OIL. Mr. Filmer discussed the fact that the BVI has for many years had one of the most innovative and efficient systems of incorporating companies, VIRRGIN, and is a global leader in this regard. BVI has also initiated “The BVI Forward Campaign,” comprising 10 specific initiatives, which form part of a strategic plan to chart the future of the industry.
Mr. Brodrick Penn, Permanent Secretary, Premier’s Office, BVI Government, moderated a panel entitled “The BVI Advantage in Capital Markets.” As an alternative fund raising method, the BVI continues to be a popular jurisdiction for debt and capital market deals in Asia, with continued strong demand in the Asian market for the use of BVI issuing vehicles on some of the largest debt issues by both Chinese state-owned enterprises and leading private companies. The advantages of using a BVI vehicle were discussed.
Panelists included Ms. Flora Wong, Partner, Conyers Dill & Pearman, and Ms. Marianne Rajic, Partner, Campbells.
“The BVI Advantage in Litigation” was the subject of a presentation by Ms. Rajic, who discussed rights and remedies in the BVI and the BVI Court.
Ms. Abrehart spoke on “The BVI: Balancing Client Confidentiality with International Compliance.” She discussed the confidentiality and transparency of the BVI’s offerings as well as data security and the implications of FATCA, CRS and BEPS for Chinese individuals and enterprises.
Mr. Filmer moderated a panel entitled “The Enduring Competitiveness of the BVI.” The panel addressed such issues as the BVI’s strong international reputation; cost effectiveness; efficiency; legal and commercial certainty; tax and foreign exchange neutrality; and flexibility. Panelists included Ms. Abrehart, Ms. Calvert, Mr. Penn and Mr. Wen.
The event culminated with a networking session where private sector and speakers further engaged with participants on a one-on-one basis with follow up questions. Similar formats, with varying presenters and panelists, were followed in the events in the other three Chinese cities.
In what Premier Smith called "a truly historic moment," the BVI signed a Strategic Cooperation Agreement with the Administrative Commission of the Tianjin Binhai New Area Central Business District (CBD).
The Binhai Central Business District (CBD) Area is one of seven functional areas of Tianjin's Free Trade Zone (FTZ). It services northern China and is one of four FTZs set up by the Chinese Government. Among other things, it features unrestricted trade, facilitated investment, clusters of high-end industries and quality financial services. Specifically, the Binhai CBD Area aims to achieve its overall development targets in 15 to 20 years and become the leading showcase of China's financial innovation.
Premier Smith told the Tianjin officials, “Although your population and indeed your province are vast compared to the BVI, we share so much in common: we are both port cities so to speak – notwithstanding that the BVI is entirely surrounded by water, we are both keen to promote our financial services, our tourism, technology, and perhaps most significantly we are jointly committed to supporting China’s Go Global Strategy.”
Following the MOU signing, the Tianjin-BVI Cross Border and Financing Forum was held for an audience of about 100 business and community leaders from the free trade zone.
Before the roadshow on October 24, Premier Smith and the BVI delegation held a series of meetings with influential Chinese companies involved in cross border investment and trade. The Premier met with the principals of LianLian Pay the third largest mobile payment vendor in China after Alipay, a related company of Alibaba. LianLian facilitates mobile payments for many Chinese merchants, making cross border payments in 19 currencies. It provides simple, fast and efficient access to Chinese merchants for foreign earnings. The company is integrated into the PayPal system and AMEX is their biggest investor. LianLian serves as the cross border currency exchange platform for merchants and businesses across a wide spectrum of industries.
Premier Smith noted that "Mobile payment is a growing and dynamic industry in China and other parts of the world. It was fascinating to understand LianLian's journey from a mobile app company just a few years ago to a leading mobile payment platform with hundreds of millions in daily cross-border payments.
“Industries like these demonstrate that there is scope for new dynamic and cutting edge industries that the BVI can find ways to collaborate with or benefit from.”
Discussions covered the use of BVI entities within Chinese group structures and various industries and how the BVI may benefit from new opportunities in these innovative spaces.
Premier Smith and the BVI delegation also met with Mr. Zheng Yumin, Secretary General of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs (GAZE) and Mr. Yong He, President of its youth arm. The Association is comprised of 249,000 members, many of whom already do business using BVI structures. Mr. Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, is President of the Association.
Mr. Zheng expressed his appreciation to the BVI for providing a platform to many Chinese as a bridge to their overseas investments. He also expressed the hope that the BVI would further engage with the Chinese business community in a more direct way. Finally, he expressed his appreciation for the establishment of the Bank of Asia, which he considered to be an example of deepening the BVI relationship with China.
Premier Smith welcomed Mr. Zheng’s comments and agreed to continue to work with his team to deepen the relationship. He was especially impressed with the role played by the youth arm of the Association and noted his own passion for youth entrepreneurship.
Later in the morning Premier Smith opened the BVI Asia Trade Mission roadshow, held at the Sofitel Hangzhou Westlake Hotel, with an inspiring message to the people of Hangzhou. While members of the audience were familiar with BVI companies, Premier Smith encouraged them to use additional BVI products in trust, funds, insurance, litigation and arbitration. His comments on globalization initiatives and BVI contributions sparked much interest. Premier Smith also expressed the BVI’s commitment to the region, noting the BVI’s longstanding relationship in China market and his government’s desire to extend the jurisdiction’s reach and diversify the use of the BVI for a variety of products and services.
The Hangzhou audience included members from the Hong Kong Family Office Association, a partner for this event. Later in the day Ms. Donovan signed an agreement between BVI House Asia and the Association to develop greater cooperation in the region.
Between October 26 and October 27, members of the BVI delegation attended the three-day China Offshore Summit at the Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai.
The BVI delegation also held its roadshow event at the hotel on the evening of the October 26###sup/sup### followed by a dinner in which the BVI delegates interacted with about 60 VIP guests.
Premier Smith attended the second day of the China Offshore Summit, and told delegates that for close to 30 years “BVI companies and structures have been the key tools to success in building wealth in the domestic market as well as for taking your businesses global.”
The summit was attended by almost 500 Chinese business people. The Premier’s speech was the last of nine speeches and remarks that he has gave across China on the BVI Asia Trade Mission roadshow. As a gold sponsor of the summit, BVI Finance’s booth was located in a premium position at the conference entrance and received high traffic from attendees.
On October 28 Premier Smith and delegation members met with Chairman Jianrong Yang of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. The Premier and the Chairman discussed a number of topics related to the BVI and China, including economic and business development, tourism, environment and arbitration.
Mr. Chan King Wai, Chairman of King Wai Group met and hosted a luncheon for the Premier and his officials at The House of Roosevelt.
Also joining the BVI Asia Trade Mission delegation were Brodrick Penn, Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office; Financial Secretary Neil Smith; Elise Donovan, Director of BVI House Asia (BVIHA); Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance, Lorna Smith; Marketing Manager of BVI Finance Alicia Green; Chairman of the BVI Tourist Board Russell Harrigan; BVI Financial Services CommissionAsia Representative Leon Wheatley; COO of BVIHA Heather Tang; and Executive Officer of BVIHA Peter Gao.
Private Sector delegates were Managing Partner of Sinclairs Adenike Sicard; Partner of Conyers Dill and Pearman Anna Chong; Annie Hu from Vistra Group; Carson Wen, Of Counsel, Jones Day; Managing Director of AMS Financial Group Claire Abrehart; Senior Business Development Manager of VISTRA Group Beijing Emma Xiong; Partner of Conyers Dill and Pearman Flora Wong; Business Development Manager of Intertrust Beijing Ivy Yang; Business Development Manager of VISTRA Group Jasmine Ling; Business Development Manager of Harneys Hong Kong Jeff Ng; Partner and Managing Director of Harneys Shanghai Kristy Calvert; Partner of Maples and Calder Lorraine Pao; Lisa Zhang and Michael Lee from VISTRA Group Beijing; Partner of Campbells Marianne Rajic; Senior Vice President of Intertrust Sabinah Clement; Regional Managing Director of Harneys Fiduciary Asia Scott Reid; Deputy Group Managing Director of OIL Simon Filmer; Vice President of Maples and Calders Fiduciary Hong Kong Sofia Shen; Associates of Conyers Dill and Pearman Teresa Tsai and Wynne Lau.