SCED's speech at "New Investment Promotion Strategies: Towards Sustainable Growth" Seminar (English only)
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the "New Investment Promotion Strategies: Towards Sustainable Growth" Seminar today (June 25):
Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn (Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr Pridiyathorn Devakula), Consul-General Aroon (Consul-General of Thailand in Hong Kong, Mr Aroon Jivasakapimas), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. I'm delighted to join you all today. A very warm welcome to Mr Pridiyathorn, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, and Ms (Ajarin) Pattanapanchai, Deputy Secretary General of the Thailand Board of Investment. I wish you both a very pleasant stay in Hong Kong.
Thailand and Hong Kong have long been important business partners. And our partnership just keeps growing. Bilateral trade increased by 14 per cent last year. In 2014, Thailand was Hong Kong's eighth largest trading partner, our 11th largest market for domestic exports and re-exports, and eighth largest source of imports. Reciprocally, Hong Kong was Thailand's ninth largest trading partner, fifth largest export market and 15th largest source of imports.
When I say our partnership is important, I don't mean only in dollar value or volume. We rely on Thailand for one of Hong Kong's most important needs - rice. In the first quarter of 2015, Thailand occupied over 60 per cent of the rice market in Hong Kong. So I guess you could say there is at least a little bit of Thailand in most households in Hong Kong.
And I must add that Thailand is a very popular tourist destination for Hong Kong people. Near half a million made trips to Thailand last year. During weekends and holidays, thousands of Hong Kong people rushed to Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and other places in Thailand to experience the fun and culture, as well as enjoy the sunshine and the beaches there.
On top of our bilateral relationship, Hong Kong also has a unique role as a "super-connector" between Mainland China and Thailand. In 2014, a sum of US$10.4 billion worth of trade between Thailand and Mainland China was routed through Hong Kong, representing 14 per cent of the total trade between the two places. Given Hong Kong's strategic location, our independent legal system, our level playing field for business, and our strength as an international financial centre and services hub, we are an ideal portal between Thailand and Mainland China. Businesses in Hong Kong will continue to be excellent partners for Thai 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 Thailand is strategically located at the centre of Southeast Asia. Thailand 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. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Thai Government once again for its support.
We are also closely watching the progress of the ambitious Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road programmes announced by our Central Government earlier this year. The Belt-Road initiatives will certainly expand Mainland China's transcontinental connectivity, and promote economic, political and cultural co-operation and development from Asia through Africa and into Europe. These initiatives will bring tremendous business opportunities to those economies situated along these land and maritime silk roads, including Hong Kong and Thailand, in the years to come.
Ladies and gentlemen, Thailand and Hong Kong are close economic partners. And we are all here today to further enhance our relationship for the mutual benefit of the two economies. Today, Invest Hong Kong and the Office of the Board of Investment of the Kingdom of Thailand will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding. We will exchange information on the investment environment and opportunities with a view to promoting two-way investment, as well as share experiences in attracting foreign investment and best practices regarding investment promotion.
I am indeed delighted to witness this very significant milestone. I would like to call upon Hong Kong and Thai enterprises to team up with one another, and to seize the emerging market opportunities.
I hope the discussions and opportunities this occasion offers will help build an even stronger relationship between Thailand and Hong Kong. I wish you all a fruitful seminar. Thank you very much.
Ends/Thursday, June 25, 2015