'Logical' UAE move seen by Lee

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu is looking for a free trade agreement to be signed with the United Arab Emirates as that would be "the logical next step" in the relationship.

Lee left Abu Dhabi on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Dubai for the final leg of a Middle East tour.

Lee spoke at the United Arab Emirates-Hong Kong Business Forum and a Lunar New Year gala dinner in Dubai on Wednesday, when he touted the SAR's unique advantages and investment opportunities to about 300 business leaders and representatives of local authorities.

He noted that the UAE is Hong Kong's largest trading partner in the Middle East region and that the SAR has its business and investment doors open for companies and investors from the Emirates.

"We treasure our longstanding relations, and I believe we can take them to a higher level entirely," Lee said.

"I am keen to build ever stronger economic, trade and investment ties with the UAE.

"To take one prime example, I believe our two economies and the companies that drive them have much to gain by a free trade agreement between us.

"An FTA between Hong Kong and the UAE, therefore, is the logical next step in our relations. I'm confident it will boost substantially trade and investment ties between us."

Lee also said discussion was well under way on sealing a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between them.

He also witnessed the exchanges of MoUs between Hong Kong and UAE companies, including fostering cooperation in architectural professional services along with innovation and technology.

Also on Wednesday, Lee and his 30-strong delegation of officials and more than 30 business representatives visited the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone at the Khalifa Industrial Zone in Abu Dhabi, the second stop on his Middle East trip.

Lee met the chairman of China Jiangsu International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group Song Qinbo there and talked to mainland staff members about their experiences in the zone.

Lee and his delegation also attended a lunch hosted by the Abu Dhabi Ports Group and learned more about the development of the logistics industry in Abu Dhabi.

Lee and his delegation is expected back in Hong Kong tomorrow morning.