22 Sep 2017
[Seminar] Partnering in Asia and Africa in Major Infrastructure Projects

On 7th July 2017, the UN-sponsored China-AALCO [Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization] Exchange and Research Program on International Law (CAERP), which was launched in 2015 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation with Asian Academy of International Law (AAIL). It signified both sides would harness our respective advantages to facilitate joint contributions to promote exchanges and cooperation in various areas of international law amidst Asian and African countries. As the first cooperation achievement, a part of CAERP’s third training session was held in Hong Kong.

While most sessions of the training were closed-door events reserved for the legal officers coming from the 35 AALCO Member States, an afternoon seminar was open to the public.

Various forms of public private partnership (PPP) exist, depending on the responsibilities and risk taken by the parties concerned; regardless of the many different forms, the ubiquitous presence of PPP in large-scale projects both on the national and international levels could hardly be overlooked. With the Chinese government’s introduction of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, huge business potentials and opportunities ensued. Under the Initiative, construction of large-scale infrastructure such as railways, highways, ports and telecommunications facilities are projects of high priority. Aiming to provide a platform for the discussion of ways to strengthen partnership between Asia and Africa in major infrastructure projects, CAERP and AAIL co-organised this seminar to examine points for attention during the structuring of PPP.

After the opening remarks of Mr Xie Feng (Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PR China in Hong Kong SAR), with which he extended a warm welcome to the delegates coming from various Asian and African countries, Mr Frank Chan (Secretary for Transport and Housing Bureau of Hong Kong SAR) delivered a case study that shared Hong Kong’s experience of PPP. Mr Steve Clark (CEO Asia, Suez) and Mr Siu-hung Chan (Managing Director - China, China Light and Power) then shared about special requirements for making investments in infrastructure projects in their respective spheres. In the following session, Dr Lee George Lam (Non-Executive Chairman of Macquarie Bank's Infrastructure and Real Assets business in the Hong Kong and ASEAN region) moved on to elucidate issues pertaining to meeting criteria and overcoming hurdles when financing major infrastructure projects.

As Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are participating in many major infrastructure projects, Prof Teresa Chang SC (Chairman of AAIL) led the audience to examine whether SOEs enjoy sovereign or crown immunity, bringing to the fore issues that host states should take into account in such investments. Finally, basing on the case studies, Ms Rebecca Silli summarised the legal risks that have to be addressed in PPP.

Other than government officials coming from various Asian and African countries, the seminar attracted many stakeholders in the construction industry, their legal and financial advisors as well as Hong Kong SAR government officials involved in PPP, creating a broad platform for companies interested in major infrastructure works to network with experts and representatives from countries under the Belt and Road Initiative.