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SCED's speech at Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition gala wine dinner and award presentation (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the gala wine dinner and award presentation of the Third Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition this evening (November 3):

Miss Schiavo, Fred (Lam), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     I am delighted to join you all for this gala wine dinner.

     In Verdi's popular opera "La Traviata", there is the famous "Drinking Song". It is sung by the character Alfredo and the apple of his eye Violetta.  

     Don't worry - I am not going to sing it for you this evening!

     I mention the "Drinking Song" because it combines two of Italy's great cultural icons, opera and wine. Any first-time visitor to Italy will soon realise that wine is part of the lifestyle and cultural heritage of the nation. It brings together friends and business partners and it links Italy's rich history with its prominent position in our global village.

     I am delighted that Italy is our partner country for this year's International Wine and Spirits Fair. I am also pleased to see so many friends and business people from around the world taking part in this year's event.

     Here, in a city that does not have any vineyards, the wine trade is all about partnerships. Whether it is enjoying a glass or two with friends, striking a business deal or pairing the ideal wine with a culinary dish, we seek out the best partners.

     While the major wine-producing regions have the perfect soil and climate, plenty of space and centuries of experience, Hong Kong's wine business has evolved a little differently.

     Our attributes include zero wine duties and a vast market right on our doorstep. We also have the local knowledge, contacts and logistics infrastructure to promote the wine trade throughout the region.

     In other words, Hong Kong is a great partner for wine producers around the world to promote their products and services in Asia.

     Hong Kong's partnership with the international wine trade is making good progress. In the first eight months of 2011, the value of total wine imports amounted to US$857 million, a 65 per cent increase over the same period last year. Last year the value of our wine imports from Italy alone reached US$20 million. That is an increase of 150 per cent over 2007, before we eliminated wine tariffs.

     Our wine auction business has also flourished. We have firmly established our position as one of the three largest wine auction centres alongside London and New York.

     As well as eliminating wine tariffs, fine-tuning customs arrangements and raising the quality of storage facilities, Hong Kong is becoming better connected with our partners worldwide. So far we have signed 12 co-operation agreements with wine-producing economies, including most of the major wine regions.

     As well as launching home-grown wine and dine events, Hong Kong will also host Vinexpo Asia-Pacific for the fifth time next year. We are also increasingly active overseas. In April this year, we took part in Vinitaly in Verona.

     Ladies and gentlemen, this year's Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Fair is the largest so far, with about 930 exhibitors representing 37 countries and regions. It has become Asia's biggest wine exhibition. Congratulations to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for organising this wonderful and highly successful event.

     The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition has also gone from strength to strength to become the premier event of its kind in Asia. Congratulations to all the award winners this year.

     I wish you all a successful Wine and Spirits Fair, and our visitors an enjoyable stay in Hong Kong.

     In the words of Verdi's famous "Drinking Song":

     "Be happy; the wine and the singing beautify both the night and the laughter.
     "Let the new day find us in this paradise."

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Thursday, November 3, 2011
Issued at HKT 20:47