SCED's speech at "Hong Kong: Where Business Goes to Grow" seminar in Manila (English only)
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the "Hong Kong: Where Business Goes to Grow" seminar organised by Invest Hong Kong in Manila, the Philippines, today (September 24):
Ms Maria Roseni M Alvero (Assistant Secretary of the Foreign Trade Service Corps, Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Magandang umaga ("Good morning" in Tagalog). I'm delighted to join you all today. First of all, I would like to thank the five local business associations, the Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Makati Business Club and Anvil Business Club, our Economic and Trade Office based in Singapore and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Thank you for supporting this important seminar led by Invest Hong Kong.
The Philippines and Hong Kong have long been important business partners. And our partnership just keeps growing. Bilateral trade increased by 18 per cent last year. In 2014, the Philippines was Hong Kong's 17th largest trading partner, our 16th largest market for domestic exports, 22nd largest market for re-exports, and 13th largest source of imports. Reciprocally, Hong Kong was the Philippines' sixth largest trading partner, fourth largest export market and 13th largest source of imports.
When I say our partnership is important, I don't mean only in terms of dollar value or volume. Our people-to-people relations have also been very strong. The Filipinos are one of the largest foreign communities in Hong Kong, with more than 190 000 Filipinos there. We value greatly their contribution to Hong Kong's society and economy. Likewise, I am happy to see a big Hong Kong community in the Philippines doing business and other meaningful work.
And I must add that the Philippines is also a traditional tourist hot spot for Hong Kong people. Resorts like Cebu and Boracay are household names in Hong Kong. The sunshine and beautiful beaches, and the hospitality of the people are all appealing to holidaymakers. Over 120 000 Hong Kong people made trips to the Philippines last year. On the other hand, we welcomed as many as 700 000 visitors from the Philippines to Hong Kong last year. We look forward to hosting even more visitors from each other's economies in the future.
On top of our bilateral relationship with the Philippines, Hong Kong also has a unique role as the "super-connector" between Mainland China and the Philippines. In 2014, US$7.1 billion worth of trade between the Philippines and Mainland China was routed through Hong Kong, representing 16 per cent of the total trade between these two places. Given Hong Kong's strategic location, our sound legal system, the level playing field for business and our strength as an international financial centre and services hub, we are an ideal portal between the Philippines and Mainland China. Businesses in Hong Kong will continue to be excellent partners for Filipino companies as more and more of them venture into the Chinese market.
Just as Hong Kong is the gateway to Mainland China, we are keenly aware that the Philippines is strategically located at the centre of Southeast Asia. The Philippines has been the gateway for Hong Kong enterprises heading into the Southeast Asia region that includes ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
Our business co-operation will be further enhanced by the ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement, which is now under negotiation. All is progressing smoothly, and we expect a successful conclusion in the coming year. Once the Free Trade Agreement is up and running, it will further boost the unique role of Hong Kong as the "super-connector" between Mainland China and ASEAN. The Free Trade Agreement will help business communities focus on the substantial market opportunities available in ASEAN member states, including the Philippines. It will also provide a stable and transparent framework in which regional trade and investment can flourish.
And the good news just keeps on coming. I would like to share with you the "Belt and Road" initiatives announced by the Central Government of China. The "Belt and Road" is a development strategy which aimed to enhance connectivity and co-operation, and 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.
The "Belt and Road" will generate demand and increase the volume and intensity of international trade and investment flow among countries on the routes, including the Philippines, as well as two-way traffic in and out of China. Hong Kong is well poised to serve as the "super-connector" for all these exciting developments. Being an important financial, commercial and maritime centre in the world, Hong Kong will provide a wide range of professional services for Mainland enterprises to "go global" in pursuit of the "Belt and Road" opportunities.
Filipino investors and companies will definitely benefit from these initiatives. By establishing a foothold in Hong Kong, they will be well placed to seize the business opportunities. We encourage Filipino businesses to make use of Hong Kong as an investment springboard or a logistics hub when they venture into the markets of the "Belt and Road" countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Philippines and Hong Kong are close partners. And we are all here today to further enhance our relationship for the mutual benefit of the two economies. Today, Invest Hong Kong, our investment promotion agency, and the Board of Investments, Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines, have signed a Memorandum of Intent whereby both parties will exchange information on the investment environment and opportunities, and share experiences in attracting foreign investment as well as best practices regarding investment promotion.
I am delighted to have witnessed this very significant milestone. I would like to call upon both Hong Kong and Filipino enterprises to seize this new chance to team up with one another, and to seize the emerging market opportunities as Asian economies strive for sustainable growth and development.
I wish you all a fruitful and rewarding seminar. Thank you once again for joining us.
Ends/Thursday, September 24, 2015