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China Focus: China approves mainland-HK bond connect program
Last Updated: 2017-05-17 08:18 | Xinhua
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China on Tuesday announced the approval of a bond connect program between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Investors on both sides will be able to trade bonds on each other's interbank markets under the program, according to a joint statement from the People's Bank of China (PBOC) and Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA). Northbound trade will be launched first, without caps on investment volume.

Links of stock trading between Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen were launched in 2014 and 2016, respectively, significant steps of the internationalization of China's financial market.

The new program will "reinforce and improve Hong Kong's role as an international financial center, help China's financial opening up and contribute to Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability." said the statement.

The move came ahead of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China on July 1.

Norman Chan, chief executive of the HKMA, described the bond connect as an important step toward "liberalization of the mainland's capital account" in a press release.

"Through the bond connect platform, Hong Kong will be a gateway for overseas investors to enter the mainland bond market, leveraging our role as an international financial center as well as an intermediary for capital flows between the mainland and international markets." Chan said.

China's bond market has boomed during the past decade but access for overseas investors has been limited, accentuated by a more global Chinese currency stimulating demand for yuan-denominated assets.

The mainland has become the world's third largest bond market with an outstanding amount of about 66 trillion yuan (9.6 trillion U.S. dollars) by the end of March.

Measures have been rolled out to ease restrictions. But the market "still needs further opening up," said the statement

A total of 473 overseas investors hold 800 billion yuan of outstanding investment in the interbank bond market. "The less than 2-percent holding by overseas investors provides ample room for much stronger presence." Chan said.

The launch date remains subject to further notice, and southbound trade will be initiated at a proper time in the future, according to the statement.

Around two months ago, Premier Li Keqiang said the bond connect would be established on a trial basis this year during a press conference after the national legislative annual session, promising continued support for Hong Kong from the central government.

The authorities also noted challenges from the bond connect, in areas of cross-border capital flows and supervision, investor protection, market transparency, and interconnection of financial infrastructure.

To fend off risks, the program will be pushed forward step by step, with closer cooperation on information sharing and law enforcement, said the statement.

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