SCED's speech at HKABA (SA Chapter) Business Awards gala dinner in Adelaide (English only)
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Hong Kong-Australia Business Association (HKABA) (South Australia (SA) Chapter) Business Awards gala dinner in Adelaide today (August 14, Adelaide time):
Your Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le (Governor of South Australia), Mr Mike Higgs (President of the HKABA (SA Chapter), Mr Michael Higgs), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening. First of all, I would like to congratulate Mr Higgs and his team at the South Australia Chapter of the Hong Kong-Australia Business Association for putting together this highly prestigious event. I am glad to be here tonight to enjoy your good hospitality and, of course, to celebrate the success of the Awardees. Congratulations to the Business Awards winners and all the worthy nominees.
This is my first visit to South Australia, and I am truly impressed by the vibrancy and charm exhibited by Adelaide. What a beautiful city! On my visit to Australia this time, I am making stops at a number of places, and I am spending the longest time in Adelaide. I guess you could say that this signifies the strong friendship between South Australia and Hong Kong, and also my determination to further enhance our relationship.
Hong Kong and Australia have traditionally enjoyed close ties going back over a century - not just in business and commerce, but legal, educational, cultural and government-to-government links as well. We are proud of our strong connections with Australia through our sizeable community of Australian expatriates, the variety of quality Australian products and services in Hong Kong, and the number of tourists who visit Hong Kong from Australia. At last count, more than 1 500 Australian companies are operating in Hong Kong, and some 90 000 Australians call Hong Kong home. It is certainly not a one-way street. Close to 80 000 people of Hong Kong origin now live in Australia.
Australians feel at home in Hong Kong, in the same way that Hong Kong people feel at home in Australia. We share many of the same values - freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom to work, travel, worship, make money and enjoy life. And, of course, freedom to criticise politicians and government officials and others on a routine basis. Believe me, as a minister in Hong Kong, I can vouch for this.
In many ways we think alike, and that is why Hong Kong is the natural choice, a perfect partner, for Australian companies doing business in Asia. Allow me to elaborate on what Hong Kong may offer to your businesses.
First, an investment conduit. Hong Kong is both a prominent source and destination for foreign direct investment (FDI). According to a recent report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Hong Kong ranked number two in global FDI inflows, second only to Mainland China. We were also the world's second largest outward investing economy, second only to the United States. In particular, we have a very significant volume of trade and investment flows with Mainland China.
With the Central People's Government's policy of helping enterprises in Mainland China and Hong Kong to "go global" together, we are confident that Hong Kong would remain the most important investment conduit for businesses in the Mainland. Chinese companies nowadays are very eager for opportunities to invest and establish a presence overseas. The potential investment from Mainland China to Australia through Hong Kong could be enormous.
And I must bring to your attention China's "Belt-Road" initiative. This "Belt-Road" initiative is a development strategy designed to integrate China more fully into the world economy. The "Belt" refers to the New Silk Road Economic Belt, which will link China with Europe through Central and Western Asia. The "Road" is the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It will connect China with Southeast Asian countries, as well as Africa and Europe. With our long-standing and unique role as the "super-connector" between the vast Mainland Chinese market and the rest of the world, Hong Kong is poised to benefit from this new framework for organising multinational economic development. And for Australian companies with investment and operations in Hong Kong, that means new business and new opportunities.
Besides the role of an investment conduit, Hong Kong may also serve as an excellent base to set up your businesses and to tap into the markets of Asia and the Mainland. Hong Kong is strategically located at the heart of Asia - at the doorstep of Mainland China and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region. We have an open and business-friendly environment with low and simple taxes. We practise the rule of law, underpinned by judicial independence. We embrace the internationally recognised codes of practice in business and commerce. And we guarantee a level playing field for all companies, and free flows of capital, information and talent. In a nutshell, Hong Kong provides a familiar financial, legal and cultural environment for Australian firms to access a wide audience in our part of the world. Indeed, you would expect nothing less from an economy that is consistently ranked as the freest in the world. We have retained the top spot in the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom for 21 years in a row. This status reflects real advantages for doing businesses in Hong Kong.
What is more? Hong Kong is also an ideal showcase for Australian firms to promote their high-quality goods to consumers across Asia. On its own, Hong Kong is a relatively small city with a population of just 7 million. But when you consider that we received about 61 million visitors last year, including more than 47 million from the Mainland, Hong Kong is an ideal platform for premium Australian products, such as food and wine, to reach a wide audience in our part of the world.
Speaking of which, I understand that South Australia has set the export of premium food and wine as one of its economic priorities. Therefore, on this trip I am joined by a number of key players in Hong Kong's wine industry who are eager to explore business opportunities here. We visited the beautiful Barossa Valley yesterday and experienced the world-renowned Shiraz there. Of course, wine from the Barossa Valley is no stranger to wine lovers in Hong Kong.
When it comes to the wine trade, Hong Kong and South Australia have long been close partners. Despite being just a city, Hong Kong accounted for 8 per cent of South Australia's wine export in 2014. That is in part thanks to the presence of a sizeable group of wine connoisseurs in Hong Kong who appreciate good wine and cuisines from around the world.
Our success in the wine trade can also be attributed to the removal of all our wine duties in 2008. Since then, Hong Kong's wine imports have thrived with a twofold increase to around AUD1.2 billion in 2014. Our booming wine business is well complemented by the insatiable demand from the Mainland, to which we re-exported AUD214 million of wine last year. I am proud to let you know that Hong Kong has been the world's number one wine auction centre for the last five years, and the outlook of our wine business remains very positive.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong has always been the "super-connector" connecting Mainland China with the rest of the world. As your friend and business partner in Asia, Hong Kong is ready to facilitate your ventures and help grow your businesses. I invite and encourage you all to make greater use of Hong Kong's unique advantage in terms of our physical proximity with the Mainland, as well as our first-class infrastructure and our highly competitive business and professional services.
Thank you once again for having me tonight. I wish the HKABA every success in the future, and I wish you all a very enjoyable evening. Thank you very much.
Friday, August 14, 2015