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SCED's speech at Burgundy's gala dinner "Paulée de Bourgogne" (English only)

     Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at Burgundy's gala dinner "Paulée de Bourgogne" tonight (May 9):

     Madame (Safia) Otokoré, Monsieur (Arnaud) Barthélémy, Madame (Anne) Parent, friends from Burgundy, distinguished guests, wine lovers, ladies and gentlemen - I think that covers everyone!

     Bonsoir. Bienvenue à Hong Kong. (English translation: Good evening. Welcome to Hong Kong.)

     A very warm welcome to all our visitors, and especially to our friends who have travelled from France to be here.

     To those of you from Burgundy, thank you for bringing some of your finest wines and most accomplished chefs to Hong Kong, and for inviting me to join you this evening.

     Your warm hospitality reminds me of a line in a book, which says, quote: "The odour of Burgundy, and the smell of French sauces, and the sight of clean napkins and long loaves, knocked as a very welcome visitor at the door of our inner man." End quote.

     The last time I attended this gala dinner was more than two years ago, in the autumn of 2011, around the time of the grape harvest season in Burgundy.

     Here in Hong Kong we also have a "wine season", although with a twist. With no grapes to harvest here, our "wine season" is traditionally towards the end of each year to celebrate what grapes have turned into. It comprises major events including our Wine and Dine Festival and the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, which are geared towards the general public and to the trade respectively.

     This year, our "wine season" has come early to Hong Kong in French honour. As well as this Paulée de Bourgogne gala dinner, Burgundy is the partner region for the 2013 Le French May, the largest annual festival in Asia celebrating French arts and creativity.

     So this month, Hong Kong is getting a taste, not just of great Burgundy wine, but also of the region's arts, culture and cuisine under the theme of Amazing Bourgogne.

     Wine is perhaps best loved for its ability to bring people together, and that is certainly the case for the people of Hong Kong and Burgundy. Since we eliminated duties on wine in 2008 and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Burgundy in 2010 on wine co-operation, there have been growing exchanges between us in both the number and substance.

     I do not intend to go into too much detail this evening about the many opportunities for the wine trade with Hong Kong, and through Hong Kong, under our zero-duty strategy. I will only share with you one vital statistic. According to the Burgundy Wine Board, up to the end of 2012, the share of total Burgundy wine exports to Hong Kong and Mainland China has increased six-fold compared to 2007, before we eliminated tariffs.

     Ladies and gentlemen, bringing the extraordinary flavours and cultural flair of the Burgundy region to Hong Kong is a wonderful blend of East and West.

     It is also an honour for us to reciprocate the fine hospitality we received during the "Hong Kong Week in Burgundy" promotion a few months ago.

     And not the least, I would like to congratulate the Burgundy Regional Council on posting an official representative to our city. I am sure that your presence here will help to forge even closer links between Hong Kong and Burgundy. I look forward to more gatherings with friends from Burgundy in future.

     Enfin, je souhaite que vous allez tous passer une soiree des plus agreables. Merci Beaucoup. (English translation: Finally, I wish all of you a most enjoyable evening. Thank you very much.)

Ends/Thursday, May 9, 2013
Issued at HKT 21:05