SCED's welcoming remarks at Opening Dinner of 13th ASEAN Leadership Forum in Laos (English Only)
Following is the welcoming remarks by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Opening Dinner of the 13th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leadership Forum in Laos today (August 6):
Your Excellency Dr Thongloun Sisoulith (Prime Minister of Laos), Your Excellency Samdech Hun Sen (Prime Minister of Cambodia), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great honour to host this Opening Dinner of the 13th ASEAN Leadership Forum tonight. I would like to thank the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Laos, and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry for organising this forum.
I would also like to thank the Lao government for hosting the first ASEAN Economic Ministers - Hong Kong, China Consultations (AEM). It is my pleasure to pay my first official visit to Laos, and I am happy to see the good discussions at the AEM this afternoon.
"ASEAN Community: Enhancing Opportunities and Shared Prosperity" is a great theme which is chosen for this year's ASEAN Leadership Forum. It suggests that the establishment of the ASEAN community will indeed open up huge opportunities for regional economic co-operation and development.
Hong Kong is keen on building strong relations with ASEAN. In 2015, ASEAN was our second largest trading partner. Five of the ASEAN economies were among the top 20 trading partners of Hong Kong. Last year, the total value of merchandise trade between Hong Kong and ASEAN exceeded US$106 billion. This is bigger than Hong Kong-US trade or Hong Kong-EU trade.
On trade in services, ASEAN was our fourth largest trading partner in 2014, with total trade value of over US$15.8 billion. ASEAN is our fourth largest source of imports of services, with 10 per cent of total imports of services coming from ASEAN.
We also have close investment relations. Hong Kong is among the top investors in ASEAN. At the end of 2014, ASEAN was the fourth major destination of outward direct investment from Hong Kong, with an investment stock of US$32.2 billion in ASEAN. Hong Kong businessmen have stepped up their investments in Southeast Asia in the last 10 years, both in manufacturing and services. Reciprocally, ASEAN was the fifth major source of inward direct investment into Hong Kong.
I believe the economic ties between ASEAN and Hong Kong will further be strengthened, as the Hong Kong, China - ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) nears conclusion. The FTA would facilitate regional economic integration and achieve shared prosperity for all of us. The sooner the FTA initiative is in place, the better our business communities can enjoy the fruits of the seeds sown.
Ladies and gentlemen, although our economies may be quite different economically and socio-culturally, we are highly complementary in our trading and investment relationship. We are keen on establishing closer ties with ASEAN, to enhance all of the connectivities under the Belt and Road Initiative. Hong Kong SAR, by leveraging our advantages under "one country, two systems" and a high degree of autonomy, will strengthen economic and trade ties with our trading partners along the Belt and Road, especially the ASEAN countries.
Last but not least, I would like to share with you that we have established a new Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Jakarta, Indonesia, the second in the ASEAN region, in addition to our existing office in Singapore. This marks our continuous effort to deepen and broaden our connection within the region.
The main responsibilities of our ETOs are to represent the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in matters between Hong Kong and ASEAN countries. The Singapore ETO will continue to cover Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. Our new Jakarta ETO will handle matters between Hong Kong and the remaining ASEAN countries. The two ETOs will work closely together to strengthen our ties with the ASEAN countries and enhance our trade and economic relations with the region.
I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts on the partnership between China, Hong Kong and ASEAN at the Forum tomorrow. I wish the ASEAN Leadership Forum a great success and wish you all an enjoyable evening. Thank you.
Ends/Saturday, August 6, 2016