Speech by SCED at business luncheon in Vancouver (English only)
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the business luncheon with directors and advisors of the Vancouver section of the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association held in Vancouver, Canada, today (February 12, Vancouver time):
Paul (President of the Vancouver section of the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association, Mr Paul Gibbons), friends of Hong Kong, ladies and gentlemen,
This is my first official visit to Vancouver. I have been to Vancouver before as a tourist and I am always charmed by this beautiful city. Why shouldn't anyone? Vancouver is consistently rated as the top North American city with the best quality of life. The beautiful natural scenery is astounding. I am especially struck by its resemblance to Hong Kong with its breathtaking views of a beautiful harbour and majestic mountains at the back.
Indeed, the connections between Hong Kong and the Lower Mainland, which is the local term for Greater Vancouver, have been very strong. There are some 300 000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong, a great many of them Vancouverites, and they have made tremendous contributions to our cosmopolitan mosaic and business buzz. I trust the same holds true going in the other direction. And like Vancouver being the gateway to Canada and North America, Hong Kong is the gateway to China and the East Asia region.
In terms of bilateral trade relations, for decades, we have been important trading partners for each other, and we have experienced steady growth in our bilateral trade. Our strong economic ties have stood the test of time, and our connections will only be further strengthened.
I am glad that your Minister Freeland (Minister of International Trade of Canada, Ms Chrystia Freeland) and I signed the Canada-Hong Kong Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, "IPPA" in short, in Toronto on February 10. The IPPA will reassure investors of both sides that their investments in the counterparty economy are protected, and will provide for a mechanism for the settlement of possible investment disputes between investors and the counterparty government. This will certainly boost the confidence of the investors, and will stimulate further our bilateral investment flows.
You may ask, exactly what opportunities are there in Hong Kong for Canadian companies? My quick and short answer to that is there are plenty of opportunities in Hong Kong.
Last year, around 100 Canadian firms had their regional headquarters, regional offices or local offices in our city - including the Vancouver Airport Authority. I am not going to repeat why Hong Kong is an excellent place for Canadian companies to do business, as well as the "super-connector" between Mainland China and the rest of the world. My ETO (Economic and Trade Office) colleagues advised me that the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association has done such a great job promoting Hong Kong, and Vancouverites are so well connected to Hong Kong, that you can recite these Hong Kong advantages back to me.
And I am also not going to delve into the technical details of CEPA (the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement), the special free trade arrangement between Hong Kong and Mainland China, and by partnering with Hong Kong, Canadian companies can gain the same enhanced access to the massive Chinese consumer market. My ETO colleagues have made available for you a lot of materials on it.
What I would like to focus on today is something called the Belt and Road Initiative, a visionary plan spearheaded by President Xi himself. "Belt" refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt, and "Road" refers to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
This grand strategy encourages closer economic as well as cultural co-operation among some 60-plus economies, particularly those emerging economies spanning Asia, Europe and Africa. "Belt and Road" is, in essence, an invitation to the international community to join hands to take global and regional co-operation to new heights, in particular in terms of enhancing policy co-ordination, strengthening infrastructural facilities connectivity, facilitating unimpeded trade and investment, deepening financial integration and building people-to-people bonds.
You may wonder how the Belt and Road Initiative, which covers countries on the other sides of the oceans, is relevant to Canada. The answer is simple. "Belt and Road" is not a fixed line. It is a global vision to boost co-development by connecting economies along the route. The initiative is open to all nations and is not limited by geography.
Say, for example, back in 2014, China floated the concept of having a high-speed railway that starts from north-east China, runs up through Siberia, passes through a tunnel underneath the Pacific Ocean, then cuts through Alaska and Canada to reach the continental US. This railway will bring travellers from Asia to Canada by land within hours. At first sight, this may seem bold and fancy, but the underlining thinking is very clear, Belt and Road will connect people, be it by air, land, sea or by trade and other invisible links, and these connections will benefit everyone of every nation involved.
The Belt and Road Initiative therefore invites people to think bigger and broader, and to go beyond the conventional geopolitical confines.
Hong Kong is well placed to partner with Canadian companies to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. With our distinctive advantage operating under the unique "one country, two systems" framework, Hong Kong can play a central role in delivering the enormous opportunities presented by this grand scheme.
As China's international financial centre, and one of the world's leading financial capitals, Hong Kong has all it takes, from our world-class market infrastructure and unparalleled business network to the robust legal system, to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for countries along the Belt and Road.
Furthermore, with a deep pool of talented professionals in the fields of accounting, law, architecture, engineering management and much more, Hong Kong can also contribute to and benefit from the large number of consultancies as well as from the management and operation of infrastructural projects that may arise.
What else? The Belt-Road will catalyse the movement of people and goods, boosting demand for reliable logistics services. In this, Hong Kong is also well served. Indeed, Hong Kong boasts the world's fourth busiest container port, providing some 350 services a week to more than 500 destinations worldwide. Our 700 shipping-related companies offer a wide range of services, from ship management, broking and chartering to finance, marine insurance, legal, arbitration and many other support services. Our airport has been the busiest cargo airport in the world for more than 15 years. From Hong Kong, you can reach all major Asian economies within four hours' flight time. Half the world's population is just five hours away.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world economy is in need of a new and strong driving force in the 21st century. And I believe the ambitious concepts of the Belt and Road Initiative can be that much-needed force. And Hong Kong has what you need in a strategic partner as you venture into markets of the Belt and Road countries. I encourage you all to make full use of our advantages in tapping the massive Asian markets and beyond.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the Greater Vancouver Area section of the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association and the Hong Kong ETO in Canada for hosting this luncheon. My thanks, as well, to all of you: for joining me today - and for your continuing interest in Hong Kong. I look forward to welcoming our Canadian friends to Hong Kong. And I hope to visit this captivating city again soon. Thank you.
Ends/Saturday, February 13, 2016