SCED's speech at luncheon reception in honour of Chief Minister of Gujarat of India (English only)
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at a luncheon reception in honour of Chief Minister of Gujarat of India, Ms Anandiben Mafatbhai Patel, today (May 20):
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman,
It gives me great pleasure to join you today at the luncheon reception in honour of Ms Anandiben Patel, Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Hong Kong and India have a long history of friendship and strong trade and investment links. Throughout the decades, Indian-owned businesses in Hong Kong have contributed significantly to the development of our economy, as well as cultural diversity and harmony.
The trade figures speak for themselves. India was our seventh largest trading partner; and reciprocally, we were your eighth. Trade between Hong Kong and India has grown steadily in recent years, with an impressive annual growth of 12 per cent last year. Total merchandise trade between Hong Kong and India exceeds US$24.5 billion in 2014, and the growth momentum looks set to continue.
Today, over 1 500 Indian companies are operating successfully in Hong Kong, engaging in a wide range of business, from trading and transportation to banking and information technology. I can see many familiar faces in this gathering here today. The Indian enterprises have, for generations, devoted themselves with vigour and enthusiasm to the growth of Hong Kong's economy. We treasure greatly our business ties with India, and appreciate the fervent effort of the Consulate General of India and the Indian Chamber of Commerce in promoting and maintaining such vital ties.
In recent years, the centre of economic gravity has gradually shifted from traditional markets in the West towards Asia, and particularly towards China and India. Both China and India are ancient civilisations with several thousand years of history, and they are now widely predicted to provide a twin-engine for global economic growth. Gujarat is a leading state in India, with a robust economy driven by its industrial prowess and entrepreneurial spirit. It has a lot to offer in this process.
Hong Kong is well positioned to bridge these two massive markets. Hong Kong benefits from its unique location on the southern coast of China. Our top-notch infrastructure, low and simple tax regime, free flow of information and capital, transparent regulatory regime, independent judiciary, international connection, financial expertise and professional services all contribute to our success as the most vibrant trading and services hub in Asia.
Hong Kong has enjoyed free trade with Mainland China for more than a decade now. The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or CEPA, gives Hong Kong products and services preferential treatment in the Mainland. For Indian companies, the good news is that CEPA is nationality neutral, which means that foreign companies incorporated in Hong Kong can enjoy the same advantageous treatment enjoyed by local companies. You need only set up in Hong Kong or partner with Hong Kong companies.
During the visit of President Xi (President Xi Jinping) last year, a sister-city pact was signed between Ahmedabad of Gujarat and Guangzhou. We have also just implemented a services agreement with the very prosperous Guangdong Province just across the boundary. The agreement gives Hong Kong companies extensive liberalisation in services trade with Guangdong, and sets a model for full liberalisation of trade in services between the Mainland and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is also watching very closely the development of the initiatives of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road programmes - known as "One Belt, One Road" - advocated by our Central Government. The initiatives constitute a grand and forward-looking national strategy to expand China's transcontinental connectivity, to promote economic, political and cultural co-operation and development from Asia through Africa and into Europe.
The "One Belt, One Road" initiatives will extend the reach of our advantages to many markets, including India. Hong Kong has a clear competitive edge in trade in services, such as financial services, trading, legal, accounting and other professional services, infrastructural project management, environmental and risk assessment consulting services, as well as transport- and tourism-related services. We expect that the "One Belt, One Road" initiatives will create immense demand for such services.
Hong Kong is the freest port for open trade and investment in the world, and the easiest place to do business. Other than being a major hub for overseas investors to establish their regional headquarters and offices, we are also the largest platform for Mainland investors to establish their base to go overseas. "One Belt, One Road" will likely increase the volume and intensity of international investment flow, as well as the two-way investment traffic in and out of China. For all these exciting developments, Hong Kong is well placed to serve as the super-connector between Mainland China and overseas markets, a role that we have been playing for decades.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong is one of the greatest places to do business in the world, and we are here to serve your needs for doing business with Mainland China. We are here to celebrate and welcome more Indian business and Gujarat business for joining us. Thank you very much.
Ends/Wednesday, May 20, 2015